Century 21 11 th yr
Century 21 2011- AD

Jan 1  World population is 6.9 billion. The US officially is around 310.5 million, 27.5 million more than ten years ago - a growth big enough for 27 more large cities. Growth rate for the Democratic Republic of the Congo is 3.17%; for Afghanistan, 2.47%; Iraq 2.45%; India 1.38%; the US 0.97%; China 0.49%; South Korea 0.26%; Japan, minus 0.24%.

Jan 1  Christians and Muslims clash in Alexandria. A bomb kills at least 27 people at a Christian church. Angry Christians attack Muslims, enter a mosque and throw books into the street. President Mubarak calls on all Egyptians to unite against terrorism.

Jan 1  In Hungary a "National Media and Communications Authority" is empowered to impose heavy fines for coverage that it considers unbalanced or offensive to human dignity or common morals. Chacellor Merkel of Germany considers the new law offensive to the dignity of the European Union. The law is supported by the conservatives now in power and very popular in Hungary, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Govenor Salman Taseer
Govenor Salman Taseer,

assassinated under orders
from Islamic clerics

Jan 4  Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, is murdered by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, who is said to have been influenced by clerics. They issued a decree of death against the governor for opposing the sentence of hanging given to a Christian mother of five, Asia Noreen, convicted of blasphemy. The governor was murdered for supporting, according to the BBC, "a perfectly legal idea to amend a man-made law with the name of Islam appended to it."

Jan 4  Interviewed by Spitzer and Parker on CNN, Pakistan's politician and former cricket star, Imran Kahn, repeats his charge that US bombing in Pakistan is inflaming opinion and is counter-productive. It's a war for hearts and minds he says, and the US is losing that war. Khan is distraught over the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer. "Pakistan," he complains, "is imploding."

Jan 5  In Tunisia, protests against unemployment and food prices have spread despite police repressions. A few have died. Muhammad Bouazi died yesterday after having set himself on fire a few days before. Just as Tunisian students were keen in observing student protests in other countries in the region, young people in these other countries now hunger for news about the protests in Bouazizi. Twitter spread interest in the revolt within Tunisia and among young people in the region.

Jan 5  Regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a panel ordered by President Obama has, in the words of the BBC. "reviewed thousands of pages of documents, interviewed hundreds of witnesses, and in the autumn conducted a series of public hearings." The panel blames the disaster on cost-cutting decisions by the companies involved.

Jan 8  In Pakistan the assassin of Governor Taseer is celebrated by many as a hero. The US educated Pakistani analyst Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi declares that "... the mindset that sustains militancy, that dilutes or prevents action against it - I think that has become fairly widespread. It has seeped into our educated classes, governmental institutions and the armed forces, where you can detect sympathy for militancy, and also to an extent for the Taliban."
Rep Gabrielle Giffords
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Jan 8  In Tucson, Arizona, 22-year-old Jared Loughner kills six people and gravely wounds Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner was targeting Giffords for assassination. He is described as having used a Glock-19 pistol.

Jan 9  According to the BBC, as many as 50,000 people have staged a protest in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi against a proposed softening of strict blasphemy laws. Demonstrators held banners in support of the assassin of Governor Taseer, Mumtaz Qadri.

Jan 10  The BBC reports that when Mumtaz Qadri emptied two magazines of a sub-machine gun at the man he was assigned to guard, 13 other policemen-guards were standing by and none of them attempted to stop Qadri.

Jan 12  The talk of global weirding in reference to weather continues. Australia is having an unusually wet summer. Queensland is having its worst floods in more than 50 years. The loss of crops is expected to produce a spike upward in food prices around the world, and damaged coal mining is expected to result in higher oil prices, especially in Asia. This comes in the wake of Pakistan having what is described as its worst flooding in history and Britain having its coldest winter in 1,000 years. Russia has also been experiencing weather extremes.

Jan 13  Unusually heavy rains, flooding and mud slides in southeastern Brazil has killed more than 420 persons. Brazilians say they have never seen anything like it.

Jan 13  Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, are denied the right to picket the funeral for the nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, one of six people killed Saturday in Tucson, Arizona. As the Westboro people see it, bad things happen because God is angry about sin - a common idea in ancient times and the reason Jehovah is supposed to have destroyed the world the first time. Westboro church members see sin as having caused the Tucson murders and the deaths of US servicemen, and the sin they have been protesting against is homosexuality.They apparently chose Christina's funeral for the sake of visibility.

Jan 15  In Tunisia, intensified police crackdowns have made matters worse for President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. His 23-years of rule ends as he flies off to Saudi Arabia. Muhammad Bouazizi, age-26, who set himself afire and died, has become a martyr and a symbol among other young people across the region who are frustrated.

Jan 16  In Tunisia, as a new interim leader is sworn in, people take the opportunity to loot and vent hostility against authority in general. In residential areas men with clubs join together in the street intent on protecting their property. The police are associated with the old regime and are in hiding. New elections are promised for within three months.

Jan 17  Tunisia's ousted dictator, Ben Ali, is being described as having spouted phony reform rhetoric in public, having "defended women's rights, educated his middle class" and as having "prevented the radical Islamists from coming to power." These quoted words are by columnist Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post. She further describes Ben Ali as having "created fake opposition parties and a phony parliament, set up a draconian regime that controlled the Internet and beat up the occasional dissident to keep everybody else frightened." She describes events in Tunisia as a "revolt of the frustrated young against their corrupt elders." She hopes but is not sure that the government that emerges will bring Tunisians "greater liberty and prosperity."

Jan 17  The Associated Press writes that today protesters set themselves afire in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania "in apparent copycat self-immolation attempts inspired by the act that helped trigger a popular uprising in Tunisia."

Jan 20  Economic figures for 2010 are published. In first place in per capita GDP is Qatar, which is doing well in banking as well as oil. Liechtenstein and Luxembourg are second and third, and fourth place is Bermuda, which counts for less because it is even less populous and its residents are benefitting from its successful financial services industry. Singapore has moved from 8th to 5th place past Norway, and Norway has increased its lead over the United States from 20% higher in 2009 to 27% higher in 2010. But in per capita GDP the US is chugging along still ahead of Canada, Britain, Switzerland and most other European powers.

Jan 24  A French cable company, Nexans, worldwide leader in the cable industry, has been awarded a contract by China's Huawei Marine Networks to lay a submarine fibre optic cable that connects Libya and Greece.

Jan 25  One week after a protester set himself afire in Egypt copying an event in Tunisia, massive protests erupt in Cairo, Alexandria and other crowded Egyptian cities. Three die on the first day. More is expected tomorrow. As a defensive move the government is blocking mobile phone and twitter communications. People are unhappy about economic conditions, what they speak of as corruption, and they focus their anger on President Mubarak, whom they see as an oppressor.

Jan 25  New economic figures have been published by the CIA Factbook. These latest figures show the United States as third largest oil producer, not far behind Russia and Saudi Arabia and as having nearly twice the production of the country in fourth place: Iran. But the US leads in oil consumption. The latest figures (for the year 2009) show US oil consumption at 18.69 million barrels per day compared to 13.68 million barrels by the more populous European Union and 8.2 million for third-place China. Russia and Saudi Arabia consume only around a fifth of what they produce. The US consumes twice as much as it produces.

Jan 25  President Obama gives his State of the Union Message. He calls for advancing the economy, including energy efficiency, by government participation in investing. Some of his critics complain that "investing" is Obama's code word for "spending." All investing they believe should be done by private enterprise.

Jan 27  Another day of protests - following Friday prayers. The course of revolution unfolds: Mobs overwhelm the police and the police change into civilian clothes and flee. The army appears on the street. President Mubarak fires his cabinet and claims that he is staying on to the protect the nation's security. It is now up to the army to support him or to side with those in the street. Monarchs usually fall at this stage, and most observers think Mubark's day are in power are few. Tomorrow will be a telling day.

Jan 30  In Egypt there is looting. People accuse Mubarak of allowing criminals out of the prisons, and Mubarak as the defender or order is winning no support. The army is in the streets with the common soldiers celebrating with the people. People are in front of the homes to defend their home with the best weapons they can get their hands on - often clubs and knives. Few if anybody is expects the military to start clearing the streets with force. Meanwhile pundits on television are vague about the economic component behing the revolution, with Fareed Zakaria describing the revolution as a product of Egypt's economic success and rising expectations. Some others disagree. Best viewing is live stream

February 2011

Feb 1  People are again in the streets of Egypt  demanding in unison that President Mubarak step down - now. Mubarak stands tough. He speaks of a "silent majority" and that he is a man of the military. He talks patriotism and his service to Egypt. He says that he will die in Egypt, and he says he will not run for re-election in September. TV anchors describe people in the streets as a revolution and speak vaguely about reforms. The anchors say nothing about any kind of major economic reform and nothing, of course, about population growth. Christopher Hitchens in Slate is describing the crucial element making the revolt as psychological (not economic). David Brooks in the New York Times writes of a "Quest for Dignity." Some in the United States see aid from the US to Egypt as having been a waste and are rallying opposition to foreign aid.

Feb 1  In response to demonstrations of a lesser extent, King Abdullah of Jordon dismisses his cabinet and appoints a new prime minister whom he calls on to institute "true prolitical reforms." The BBC describes the protesters as demanding action on unemployment and rising prices. The political reform they call for is the right to elect the prime minister.

Mubarak must go
 Mubarak must go

Feb 2  A BBC journalist in Egypt said it: Egypt's ruling elite is fighting back. Pro-Mubarak forces instigate violence against protesters. Journalists are singled out, beaten up and some put into jail. The Army watches while it is assumed by many of us that the military top brass is siding with Mubarak against the uncertainty that threatens Egypt elite.

Feb 2  In Yemen for the Second Day of Rage, any thousands in the cities Sana'a, Aden and Taiz protesting against the government's constitutional amendment allowing President Saleh to run for another term. In a speech, against government corrupts and Saleh's control of power and resources. Saleh of Yemen looks down upon protests in the streets and says that he would not run for re-election when his term ends in 2013 and that neither will his eldest son, Ahmed.

Feb 3  Reports exist of impoverished young men being paid to join in the attack on anti-Mubarak demonstrators - one source is Arab News, an English language online newspaper in Saudi Arabia. Those in charge of Egypt's security and its state-run television are holding to the practice of lying for the sake of the status quo. The uprising is being blamed on foreigners. Journalists are being singled out as spies. Journalists are being roughed up and in some instances taken away to jails. Anderson Copper of CNN has been punched ten times in the head. A Fox Newsreporter has been arrested as an Israeli spy. State-run TV has not given its journalists the right to report from the street. There are no reports of what is happening in the street, but there is an attractive young woman singing "My president, my president you feel for us. You always raise our heads high." Two journalists quit Nile TV, and they are proclaimed as heroes.

Feb 3  Using NASA's telescope in outer space, astronomers discover planets in a system with a star much like the sun - at a distance of about 2,000 light years. It is estimated that there must be a great many more such systems, extending the likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe.

Feb 3  Lenin continues to be downgraded. Chairman of the Communist Party USA, Sam Webb writes that Marxism-Leninism "was too rigid and formulaic, our analysis too loaded with questionable assumptions, our methodology too undialectical, our structure too centralized, and our politics drifting from political realities." He describes Marxism-Leninism as having taken shape "during the Stalin period."

Feb 5  ABC News describes the new worth of Hosni Mubarak's family as ranging "from $40 billion to $70 billion by some estimates." That is near the wealth of Bill Gates. ABC News quotes a professor of Middle East Politics at Durham University in England: "Mubarak, his wife and two sons were able to also accumulate wealth through a number of business partnerships with foreigners."

Feb 5  The protests in Egypt are united by a common desire among them for Mubarak to step down and for real elections. They are without outstanding leaders. There is no cabal telling them what they should do or believe. But there is the claim by supporters of Mubarak that the anti-Mubarak protest is driven by devilish persons with ulterior motives. They are associating the protest movement with foreign instigators. And in the US at Fox News, Glenn Beck speaks of Islamists and Leftists together driving the protest movement. These conspirators, claims Beck, want to crush the American way of life.

Feb 6  It is now being reported that the pro-Mubarak supporters in the streets on February 2 and 3 were not just the "thugs" orchestrated by a state agency of some sort. There remains in Egypt many people who are uncomfortable with the idea of change. And there are many who want the demonstrators to go home and back to work and to give those in power time to act on their promises.

Feb 7  Leadership of the protest movement in Cairo has emerged, described in the US press as a handful of young people who helped start the protest movement. The New York Times reports that they are "...busy meeting to organize their many small groups into a unified structure." Their movement continues to insist on Mubarak's immediate resignation, and they go beyond Mubarak. They support moves against economic "corruption" like that of the steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, a friend of Mubarak's son Gamal. And they call Vice President Suleiman a torturer.

Feb 8  We are being reminded by some in the media that a global food crisis is happening. Writes economist Paul Krugman: "World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in the prices of wheat, corn sugar and oils." Severe weather events are being described as the cause of the food crisis, with a connection to global warming. And the recent unrest in North Africa and the Middle East is being connected to rising food prices - which drove Parisians into the streets in 1789

Feb 8  Contrary to the expectations of some, "one of the biggest protests yet" occurs in Egypt, according to Reuters. It is reported in the US media that the demonstrators do not trust the Mubarak regime, especially Vice President Suleiman, enough to stop their demonstrations. They believe that for their own protection they must continue to hang together. Anderson Cooper of CNN says this is "the most dangerous time for the anti-Mubarak protesters." Dr. Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University says there is nothing more dangrous than a wounded dictator.

Feb 8  The New York Times reports: "Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have each repeatedly pressed the United States not to cut loose Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, too hastily, or to throw its weight behind the democracy movement in a way that could further destabilize the region, diplomats say." At least a few US conservatives agree. Meanwhile, the US having any control over events in Egypt beyond withdrawing aid to the Mubarak-military regime appears to be fantasy, and the Obama administration has said nothing about "reviewing" US aid to Egypt's military since the Mubarak regime began promising more democracy and freedom for Egyptians.

Feb 9  On this, the 16th day of the uprising in Egypt, protests widen. In Port Said at the mouth of the Suez Canal, angry protests include setting fire to a government building, textile workers block roads and canal workers are on a sit-down strike. In the city of El Kharga protesters burn down a police station and other buildings. A report describes 5,000 unemployed youths storming a government building in Aswan. At Egypt's most widely circulated newspaper, Al-Ahram, journalists join together to demand better working conditions and the freedom to report with more honesty. It appears to be the end of the Mubarak-military dictatorship. If the Vice President orders the army to crack down, the lower-ranks of the army are likely to go over to the side of the revolution.

Feb 10  In Bolivia, a crowd is angry with President Morales over food shortages and rising prices. Morales feels forced to abandon a public event.

Feb 10  In Egypt, joining the protests in Cairo are thousands of chanting lawyers in black robes and medical persons wearing white lab coats, also engineers and journalists. Postal workers join in solidarity with the youth of Tahrir square, and workers across Egypt are on strike. The Mubarak-Suleiman regime no longer controls the media. And they have probably lost control of the common soldier.

Feb 11  It is early morning in Egypt - still dark - as this is being written. Yesterday in Cairo the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces met for the third time since 1967, and high-ranking officers met with the demonstrators and announced that all of the movement's demands will be met. Presumably this includes Mubarak and Suleiman stepping down. The military appears to have already chosen to be on the side of the people of Egypt - the people demonstrating - which is in the military's interest. Mubarak failed to face the reality that he no longer has any power. To a nation that rejects him as their president he said, "I am addressing all of you from the heart, a speech from the father to his sons and daughters." He said that what was happening was not about him, it was about his beloved Egypt, but he rambled on to focus on himself and his service to the nation. He referred to himself as president, spoke about defending Egypt from foreign intrusions, and he said nothing about resigning. His VP, Suleiman, spoke a half hour later and advised people to go back to their houses and to their work. The people of Egypt have no more patience with being treated like children. As we enter the new day the people of Egypt are more angry than they were yesterday. Yesterday had the biggest crowds yet, and it is said that today there will be more of them. Today is showdown day.

Feb 11  Late today, Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak has "charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country." A spokesman for the military announced that, "The armed forces are committed to sponsor the legitimate demands of the people." He said, "There is no legitimacy other than that of the people." Egyptians in the streets erupted in a euphoric celebration that lasted through the night.

Feb 13
  In Yemen during the last three days the government has been arristing protesters. Protesters are confronted by pro-Saleh demonstrators, and today security forces arrest 120.

Feb 13  From Egypt, Richard Engel  of NBC News, one of the best US journalists working the Middle East, reports that he found what seems like a protest on every corner in Cairo. He speaks of protests by bank employees, factory employees and journalists. People, he says "are no longer willing to accept corruption and mismanagement." Policemen, he adds, are "reinventing themselves" and asking for better pay.

Feb 15  In front of Sana'a University, around 2,000 Saleh supporters, backed by undercover police and using sticks and electric batons, attack student protesters.

Feb 17  After days of protest, Bahrain's military does what the Egyptian military did not: crackdown and disperse the demonstrators. In Bahrain  the military moved against the demonstrators with tanks, tear gas, shot guns and concussion grenades in the early morning while the demonstrators were sleeping. At least five persons are reported dead.

Feb 17  In Libya's capital, Tripoli, demonstrators in the streets are pro-government. Libya  had its revolution, beginning in 1969, led by Muammar el-Gaddafi. Anti-Gaddafi protests appear in cities in along the eastern coast, in Al Bayda and Benghazi.

Feb 18  In Bahrain people are back in the street mourning their dead. Their call for a constitutional monarchy has changed to a call for an end to the monarchy. The government says it is sorry but that the military crackdown was necessary. The security excuse is considered a lie. It appears that what they saw as necessary was preserving their power.

Feb 18  Demonstrators in the hundreds are reported to be in the streets of Libya's major cities, along with government forces. Human Rights Watch reports 24 dead - in recent days it would seem. Greater demonstrations are taking place today in Yemen, in their eighth straight day.
Tripoli capital city of Libya
Tripoli capital city of Libya

Feb 19  Protests continue in Libya, with 84 reported dead. A pro-government newspaper, Al Zahf Al Akhdar, writes that to "Any risk from these minuscule groups, the people and the noble revolutionary power [Gaddafi's 1969 revolution] will violently and thunderously respond." In the Western press descriptions of Libya as under a dictatorship continue. Unemployment is high among young Libyans and there is considerable homelessness. Libya has had a very fast growth in population and rising urbanization.

Feb 20  Reports on the fifth day of protest in Libya describe open fire on residents of the city of Benghazi as they attend a funeral procession. Dozens are described as killed. Also described, in the New York Times, is a quick crushing of "three smaller uprisings in working-class suburbs of the capital, Tripoli." International news organizations are prohibited from entering Libya, so it is difficult to measure how massive the protests are, but videos out of Libya available on the BBC show crowds much more sparse than those that had appeared in Egypt. One video shows "protesters" with captured weapons. Whether the protesters are firing back at government forces remains an unknown. The likelihood that the "protesters" can win a violence contest against government forces seems to be nearly zero.

Feb 21  Benghazi, Libya's second city, appears to be under the control of rebels. The army there is reported to have gone over to the side of the protesters. Yesterday one of Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, spoke on television, rambling and often repeating himself, giving regrets that inexperienced militiamen fired on crowds. He blamed unrest in Libya on tribal factions and Islamists. He promised reforms and warned against civil war and the tragedy of the country's disintegration. He said, "We will fight until the last man, until the last woman, until the last bullet." The BBC reports senior diplomats defecting to the side of the rebels.
Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi
Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi,

Libya's "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution"

Feb 22  In addition to rebels in control in Libya's east, in the streets of Libya's capital, Tripoli (in the west), several neighborhoods are sealed off with makeshift barricades erected by those hostile to Gaddafi. Meanwhile, forces wanting to defend Gaddafi's revolution are in the streets of the capital, some of them carrying weapons. Gaddafi makes a speech on television saying he will die a martyr rather than quit. The speech helps him little. General Abdul Fatah Younis, Libya's minister of interior resigns and is interviewed by Al Arabiya. Libya's ambassador to the US, Ali Ajuali, joins at least seven other ambassadors in quitting their post. Gaddafi's supporters have been calling Gaddafi the "Leader and Guide of the Revolution." Former ambassador Ajuali calls him a dictator.

Feb 24 More fighting in Libya. Gaddafi speaks on state television and blames the revolt against his rule on Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. He claims that protesters have been fueled by milk and Nescafe spiked with hallucinogenic drugs.

Feb 24  King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announces a gift of $36 billion for Bahrain. According to its purpose is "to ease the economic burdens of its restive people, offering them interest-free home loans, unemployment assistance, and debt forgiveness."

Feb 25  Anti-Gaddafi forces In eastern Libya unite and establish their own law and order. People in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Iraq express solidarity with the anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya. In at least ten cities in Iraq tens of thousands demonstrate. They demand better government services and denounce corruption. They burn buildings. Gaddafi speaks in Tripoli's Green Square. Referring to himself he says that "the people love him." He adds, "We are dignity and glory and history and struggle."

Feb 26  Gaddafi invites foreign journalists to a guided tour of Tripoli. They see bread lines, city blocks in revolt, the government painting over anti-Gaddafi grafiti, people afraid to talk to the press, bodies removed to an unknown location and a doctor who alone saw more than 68 persons killed. (New York Times)

Feb 26  In Yemen in recent days a dozen or so protesters have died in the streets and many have been injured. The government crackdown is not working. Anger has made the protests bigger. Today, senior sheikhs from Yemen's main tribes (Hashid and Bakil) declare their support for the protesters.

Feb 27  The United Nations Security Council yesterday passed sanctions against Gaddafi and members of his family, and it voted to refer Gaddafi to the International Criminal court. Today, anti-Gaddafi forces seized control of the Az Zawiyah district (population around 300,000) 50 km west of Tripoli. In Tunisia, following attacks yesterday by his police on peaceful protesters, the deaths of three and the teargassing of shoppers, the now very unpopular prime minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, resigns.

Feb 28  Rebel military officers take steps to coordinate with military officers who have tanks, anti-aircraft guns and other weapons in Zawiyah just west of Tripoli. The military in the east controls Libya's oil fields. Interviewed by ABC News and others, Gaddafi "refuses to acknowledge" that there have ever been demonstrations against him in the streets of Tripoli and denied ever having used force against his people. "My people love me. They would die for me," he said.

March 2011
 North Africa and the Middle East
North Africa and the Middle East
Mar 1  A pro-Gaddafi military force attempts to take control of the city of Az Zawfsiyah (50 kms west of Tripoli). The force is repelled, and residents of the city have a victory march. As they pass through the city's main square marchers chant, "Allahu Akbar [God is Great] for our victory.'' They carry on their shoulders an air force colonel said to have defected.

Mar 2  Gaddafi's "fight to the death" is in progress. Anti-Gaddafi forces have repelled a Gaddafi force that arrived in trucks and tried to take control of the oil town of Port Braga on the eastern coast, about 160 kms south of Benghazi. Anti-Gaddafi volunteers poured in to Braga from Benghazi. They are jubilant. Gaddafi's force, more like mercenaries, appear less willing to fight.

Mar 2  The US Supreme Court rules that members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas have constitutional free speech protections that give them the right to picket military funerals. (See January 13 )

Mar 2  Islamists assassinate Pakistani Minister of Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, a Chrsitian. He spoke for reform of Pakistan's blasphemy laws - which carry a sentence of death.

Mar 5  The Saudi interior ministry declares on state television a ban on all protests and marches.

Mar 5  According to the Gallup World Poll only 6 percent of the Chinese people consider themselves happy. Denmark leads with 82 percent. In 2010 the US was listed as tied for 14th place at 57 percent. A Chinese Communist Party official, responding perhaps to the role of the internet in recent unrest in North Africa, has called upon the nation's leaders to listen to the opinions of internet users to learn what bothers and concerns them.

Mar 6  Republicans want to cut $100 billion from this year's federal budget while a battle of ideas rages including the metaphorical claim by Republicans that he country is "broke" and film-maker Michael Moore claiming it is not. Moore is attacked on Fox News as an example of Hollywood pinheadedness and dishonesty, and on Fox News he is described by Donald Trump as having communistic thoughts.

Mar 8  Beginning yesterday, NATO is sending surveillance aircraft over Libya. Anti-Gaddafi forces are under attack by Gaddafi's air force. NATO wants approval from the Arab League before forcing Gaddafi's war planes from the sky, and Arab League members are discussing the matter. Britain and France are seeking a UN resolution against Gaddafi employing his war planes.

Mar 10  Yemen's military has in the last two days moved against protesters, the soldiers firing rubber bullets, real bullets and tear gas. Yesterday, Gaddafi's military successfully pushed on anti-Gaddafi forces, killing a reported 400 and committing brutalities against non-combatants. In Cairo, Egypt's military forced revolutionaries out of Tahrir Square.

Mar 11  David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times reports that in Tripoli military officers have visited schools, warning students to watch only state television, and offering 200 Libyan dinars (162 dollars) to attend rallies. A schoolgirl who learned English watching movies tells a newsman that opinion among the kids is divided. A school principal declares that all is well in Tripoli and that foreign journalists were "telling lies, all the news are lies."

Mar 12  Yesterday Japan suffered an earthquake worse than the 8.4 Jogan quake of the year 869. Yesterday's quake was measured at 8.8 on the Richter scale. That is 180 times the power that killed over 6,000 people in Japan in 1995. And it's 1,000 times the power of a 5.8 earthquake (ten times for every one point on the scale). Yesterday's quake is being described as a once every 1,000-year quake. Known dead as of now is 1,700, and about 10,000 people are unaccounted for. The tsunami that accompanied the quake took its toll. Japan has numerous atomic energy plants (despite the special sensitivity of the Japanese people to radiation) and a plant near the quake's epicenter has exploded - despite Japanese diligence and backup security systems.

 Libya and neighboring states
Libya and neighboring states

Mar 14  Qaddafi forces continue to expand. They have overrun and smashed Zawiyah, 30 miles west of Tripol (halfway to Zuwarah)i. In Yemen, violence against demonstrators intensifies, including government use of the stronger CN type of tear gas. In Bahrain, dozens are injured as protesters push back police and they barricade roads. Troops arrive from Saudi Arabia, requested by the government.

Mar 15  Gaddafi's offensive slows. The NYTimes reports that some of Gaddafi's troops have refused to fire on civilians. In Bahrain, crushing the demonstrators rather than serious reforms appears to be the plan. The king of Bahrain (a Sunni) declares a state of emergency. Protesters (largely Shia) barricade vital roads. Iran (a Shia nation) complains that Saudi troops (Sunni) into Bahrain is unacceptable.

Mar 16  Well, not so slow afterall. Gaddafi forces, with aircraft, tanks and artillery, move against the town of Ajdabyia,100 miles from the anti-Gaddafi stronghold of Benghazi, Libya's second largest city. Meanwhile, a lot of talk in the international community about a no-fly zone over Libya is going nowhere. Also on this day, in Bahrain, the violent crackdown against protesters clears the center-city square and leaves at least six people dead. Autocracy gains but its image suffers.

Mar 17  In yesterday's New York Times, Nicholas Kristoff complains that in Bahrain - a US ally - he has seen protesters shot at close range, a girl clubbed to the ground writhing in pain and ambulance workers beaten while trying to do their job. He reports that a threatened newsman showed his passport and soldiers backed off, saying, "We love Americans. We're not after you. We're after Shia."

Mar 17  The UN Security Council votes 10 to 0 to aid the people of Libya with military action short of occupying Libyan territory - Resolution #1973. China, Russia, Germany, India and Brazil abstain. China or Russia could have killed the resolution by veto. People in Benghazi are joyous and thankful. Earlier today, Gaddafi told the people of Benghazi that his troops would arrive "tonight" and would show "no mercy."

Mar 18  In the capital of Yemen, Sana'a, At least 45 anti-government protesters die and over 200 are injured from sniper fire. Saleh declares a state of emergeny.

Mar 18  Gaddafi changes his plans and puts himself in accord with the UN by declaring a ceasefire - "to protect civilians." Yemen authorities continue with their bloody crackdown, shooting protesters and killing thirty near the university in the capital, Sanaa.

Mar 18  Japan's government continues its assurances that the radiation risk from the damaged nuclear power plant is virtually nil beyond 20 kilometers. The nation holds a minute of silence one-week after the earthquake and tsunami struck. Elderly people weep.

Mar 19  Gaddafi's tanks and troops enter Benghazi. Reports of 26 dead and 40 wounded. Also dead reported in Misrata. Sarkozy's fighter planes spotted over Libya at 10:15 AM EDT. At 11:04, Sarkozy announces that French planes are combating Gaddafi aggression. Today a Libyan tweets: "Fed up of media saying Tripoli is where Gaddafi supporters are. I'm from there. We hate him, hate him, 1000's died in 4 weeks!"

Mar 20  Coalition forces damage Gaddafi's extended supply lines, especially his long supply line to Benghazi. They bombard and cripple pro-Gaddafi troops and equipment near Benghazi. Gaddafi troops are in Misrata, where fighting and dying is taking place. On television, by telephone, Gaddafi promises to open his armed depots so that his supporters can arm themselves. He promises a "long drawn out war." He calls on Arab, Islamic, African, Latin American and Asian countries to stand by Libya - extending his decades of faulty assessment.

Mar 20  From Yemen come reports of a spate of defections and resignations from the army and diplomatic corps. In the capital, Sana'a, rival tanks and armoured vehicles are in the streets.

Mar 21  Missile destroys command compound in Tripoli. Pro and anti-Gaddafi forces fight in Adjabiya (just south of Benghazi). Misrata and Zintan under attack by Gaddafi forces. (Map change may require a page refresh.) Protesters burn buildings in Daraa, Syria. The Saleh dictatorship in Yemen is disintegrating.

Mar 22  In the US the voluminous talk that preceded UN Resolution 1973 continues. A few criticize President Obama for his role in creating that resolution, arguing in effect that if we can't attack all the bad guys at once we should attack no one. Others are afraid to help protect people against a brutal dictator because we don't know exactly who they are. Some have a problem with the parameters of Resolution 1973: military action against Gaddafi's ability to employ violence while not targeting him for death. Some argue with Gaddafi that we have no business interfering in Libya's internal affairs - although the UN Charter (articles 55 and 56), which Libya has signed, says otherwise. (President Franklin D. Roosevelt would be cheering Resolution 1973 and maybe wanting more.) A few complain that Obama's "war" against Libya is not constitutional because it is done without congressional approval. A few complain about money being spent by the military. Some others in the US are grateful for the French having sided with the American revolution - without having asked exactly who we were - and grateful for President Sarkozy having cut through all the talk and nervous hand-wringing and having led the world in taking action against Gaddafi. Today in the Washington Post, columnist Anne Applebaum praises Obama for letting Sarkozy and the British exercise their leadership role.

Mar 23  Gaddafi appears in public before maybe one hundred followers and says his enemies will be swept into the "dust bin of history." Surreptitious interviews with journalists suggest that most people in Tripoli want Gaddafi into the dust bin of history. People there are asking for help from Obama, as are people elsewhere in Libya. Meanwhile, some in the US (Richard Haass among them) see giving any military help to Libyans as not in the US interest - while they believe that it is in the US interest to be more highly thought of in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Mar 23  A story in the press yesterday: At a bank in Tripoli, an elderly woman got into a long line of men. A man told her she should move to the other long line - for women. She stayed where she was and screamed: "All the men are in Benghazi" (in other words, fighting against Gaddafi). There was Mis immediate silence.

Mar 23  At 9 AM EDT, Allied planes to the rescue at Misrata.

Mar 23  In Yemen, President Saleh outlaws protests, a move supported by parliament. In Deraa, Syria, at least six people die when security forces fire on protesters outside a mosque.

Mar 24  The iodine-131 radiation in Tokyo's tap water is of the kind that dissipates in days - with a half-life of eight days. Government authorities declare that the radiation is in amounts small enough that the water is safe to drink now for all but infants less than one year old, and they call for an end to the panic that has emptied the stores of bottled water.

Mar 24  Libya's pro-democracy fighters have formed an "interim government" headed by Mahmoud Jibril, a Libyan with a masters degree in political science and a doctorate in strategic planning from the University of Pittsburg.

Mar 24  Scientists find a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain of mice (mammals) that controls sexual preference.

Mar 24  The Cuban government has freed Jose Ferrer and Felix Navarro, the last of the 75 imprisoned dissidents arrested eight years ago.

Mar 25  Someone tweets: Hannity [of Fox News] blasted O[bama] for getting us involved in Libya. Then McCain came on and said we needed ground troops and Hannity agreed. WTF?

Mar 25  In Syria, the Assad regime, a hereditary dictatorship, says it is considering reforms that include opening up the media, allowing political parties and lifting an emergency law in place since 1963. The death toll from shooting protesters on the 23rd has risen to between 15 and 51. Today protests erupt across Syria. Three reported killed in Damascus as of 2 PM EDT.

Mar 26  In Syria , protesters burn down Baath Party headquarters in Daraa, Tafas and Latakia. In Latakia, twelve people are reported killed and at least 200 injured by rifle fire from rooftops.

Mar 28  Qatar  is the first Arab country to recognize Libya's anti-Gaddafi government. Anti-Gaddafi forces are stall about 80 miles east of Surt (Sirte) - Gaddafi's hometown. Their communications and supply line is stretched and their gasoline meager. A bigger battle, and perhaps the decisive battle, will be for Misrata maybe later this or next week.

Mar 29  Today, President Obama's French, British and German allies agree with his statement that the Libyan people should have "the political space to determine their own future." Obama has said again that the US will help the Libyan people but not with ground forces. Some of his critics in the US want a greater use of US power and control. This, they claim, would create "clarity." Some speak in favor of a US invasion of Libya, a date certain for a military victory and a withdrawal that leaves in power people they know and trust. Speaker of the House, John Boehner, says that Obama has failed "to provide Americans much clarity to our involvement in Libya." Boehner adds, "Nine days into this military intervention, Americans still have no answer to the fundamental question: what does success in Libya look like?" Meanwhile, some who support Obama see movements for freedom and democracy as messy, as filled with uncertainties and as the work essentially of a people rather than of outsiders - a people whom many Americans want to help but not control. Some who appreciate the ability of the US to influence and support military action also recall the mistake made in Iraq in 2003  by an over-eagerness to control.

Mar 29  In the Iraqi city of Tikrit, gunmen storm a council building and take hostages. Security forces move in and several council members are among the dead, reported as at least forty-one.

Mar 30  In Syria, Bashar Assad has the ruling Baath Party and other government supporters to consider. It's a group dictatorship, as dictatorships usually are. No man holds political power alone, and power elites have and use their figureheads. To Syria's parliament, Assad describes protests as a foreign plot and protesters as "dupes." He vows to defeat the plot. Parliamentarians - Baathists - interrupt him with declarations of support. Then he declares that reforms are needed and that it is necessary to "listen to the voice of the people." Meanwhile more than 60 have died in demonstrations and the government has its supporters in the streets, some of them members of labor unions controlled by the Baath Party.

Mar 30  In Libya, anti-Gaddafi forces have retreated in a disorganized fashion to east of Brega. Gaddafi's forces are extending their line and rushing into a trap, exposing themselves to air assaults. People fighting with the Gaddafi forces are describing those fighting against Gaddafi as rats. Reconciliation doesn't appear to be at hand.

Mar 30
  Jim Hoagland, the Washington Post's senior foreign correspondent and a measured centrist observer, describes President Obama in the past month as having "adeptly balanced diplomacy and the use of force." He writes: "President Obama's military intervention in Libya reflects the hard times in which he governs. He is recalibrating American power in a world where a financially weakened, politically polarized United States no longer commands but can still lead - if with a lighter touch."

Mar 31  The UN asks Japan to consider expanding the evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear reactors from a radius of 20 kilometers to 40 kilometers - beyond which, it claims, safe radiation limits exist. Radioactive iodine levels in seawater near the plant are reported to be 4,385 times the legal limit. The nuclear plant operators have announced that four of the five problem nuclear reactors will be "decommissioned."

Mar 31  Concerning Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, says of government forces: "The last few nights they have been raiding houses and beating and arresting people." He adds that approximately 400 people are either missing or in custody.

April 2011

Apr 1  Japan's government continues to monitor radiation levels, and despite new radiation data it says it has no plans to widen the evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 atomic power plant. Yesterday the level of radioactive iodine-131 in seawater near the plant was measured at 4,385 times the maximum tolerable level. This is iodine-131 radiation, which has a half-life of eight days. Concentrations of cesium 137 radiation are also leaking from the plant, and experts say that releases from the plant could continue for months. Meanwhile the increase in radiation that has appeared in milk in the United States is said to be within the tolerable radiation levels that people are continuously exposed to every day.
Libya and neighboring states
Map of Libya

Apr 1  The Arab League declares its support for anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya. Qatar agrees to market oil from anti-Gaddafi eastern Libya. A Facebook page titled "Support Muammar al Gaddafi from the people of Serbia" has attracted more than 65,000 supporters. Their yardstick for measuring the conflict in Libya appears to be their dislike for the NATO air campaign that they experienced in 1999.
Map of Syria
Map of Syria

Apr 1  It's Friday, with huge protest demonstrations across Yemen and Syria In Syria people again are shouting for "freedom." Four demonstrators are reported dead after security forces fired upon demonstrators in a Damascus suburb.

Apr 2  In northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e Sharif, some join those Muslims who have yet to come to terms with the fact that some people in the world dislike their religion - as people with grown-up attitudes elsewhere have. Yesterday a crowd of a thousand or so Muslims, outraged after being told by an imam in a Friday sermon about the burning of a Koran by a pastor in the United States a month ago, stormed a UN compound and killed at least 7 UN workers. The not-so-grown-up American pastor, the imam and his murderous mob all believed they were combating evil.

Apr 2  Today in Kandahar a crowd surged through the streets chanting "They have insulted our Koran." They were only a few people around one pastor largely disrespected in the United States, but the crowd extended they to the whole of the United States with the words "Death to America." The crowd rampaged and nine people died.

Apr 2  Seven New York Times reporters speak of their ordeal while captives of Gaddafi forces. In the back of a pickup truck in the city of Surt they were exposed to people who attacked them physically and called them Al Qaeda and dogs - more of the small-minded passionate demonization common to conflicts. Surt is Gaddafi's hometown and reported to be largely pro-Gaddafi. And what's with the disrespect for dogs?

Apr 3  Norman Benotman, Libya's former al-Qaeda associate of bin Laden, tells Fareed Zakaria of CNN that al-Qaeda and jihadists on the anti-Gaddafi side in Libya are "insignificant." They are there of course, he says, and anti-Qaddafi, but they are not organized into a coherent group and will not give direction to the anti-Gaddafi movement. The anti-Gaddafi movement, he says, is led and supported by men with an agenda that is friendly to the West and "based on a free democratic society." Meanwhile a few people (Richard Haaas among them) are looking for a ceasefire in Libya that works, for negotiations and for the Gaddafi regime to transform itself - again - in order to survive. Others insist that Gaddafi must go.

Apr 3  In the Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), the results of an election for president in late November is being decided by a civil war. The United Nations has declared the challenger, Alassane Ouattara, the winner. The incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, has refused to leave and has ordered UN peace keepers out of the country. Forces supporting Ouattara have swept down from the north and surround Gdagbo's forces around the city of Abidjan - on the coast in the south. According to the UN, almost 500 people have been killed and a million have fled their homes. Gbagbo is a former history teacher who fought and was imprisoned for the sake of democracy. Ouattara acquired a doctorate in economics in 1972 from the University of Pennsylvania.

Apr 4  According to the Norway Post, the number of offences reported to the police in Norway is lowest in 20 years. One in five of those offenses occurs in the capital, Oslo, which has one-tenth of Norway's population. Norway enjoys less crime than most countries. Statistics held by the UN for the years 1998-2000 has Norway at 2.6 criminal prosecutions per 1,000 population compared to 48 per 1,000 for the US, 11.5 for Canada, 6.8 for Germany and 1.1 per 1,000 for Japan. (Stats available at

Apr 4  A Turkish hospital ship rescues 250 injured people from the besieged city of Misrata and takes them to the anti-Gaddafi city of Benghazi.

Apr 5  Qatar's English daily, the Peninsula,  describes an increase in speculation in the oil futures market. Among the players are Barkleys, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. They are "leading the charge into oil but, in addition, several secretive hedge funds are now wagering hundreds of millions of dollars every day in the oil market and reaping the dividends." More speculators in the market are driving up the price of oil futures, and the rulers of oil exporting countries, perhaps Qatar but definitely Saudi Arabia, dislike being blamed for rises in oil prices.

Apr 5  Around 250 students demonstrating at Kabul University in Afghanistan shout "Death to America," regarding the burning of a Koran. They are angry about disrespect for Islam while feeding that disrespect and the argument that Islam is a religion that encourages violence.

Apr 6  Photos found by journalists in a burned-out police station in Zawiyah (50 km west of Tripoli) show death and torture of persons detained. (Reported by the New York Times.) Gaddafi's son, Saif, has portrayed himself as anti-torture.

Apr 6  The violence in Yemen continues. Eighteen are reported killed since the day before yesterday. Today, fighting is reported between tribesmen loyal to President Saleh and soldiers on the side of anti-Saleh demonstrators.

Apr 7  At the OPEC meeting in Paris, the United Arab Emirates oil minister, al-Hamli, claims that oil prices have been rising because of speculators rather than any shortage of supply.

Apr 8   Tea Party Republicans in Washington DC have been saying that elections in 2010 made them the representatives of "the people" and that they will pursue the people's agenda. President Obama and other Democrats in government represent the opinions of enough people to argue that compromise is in order to keep the government doing its business. The Democrats have agreed to the Republican proposal to cut $33 billion from the federal budget, but the Republicans have upped that to $61 billion and insist on cutting social programs they dislike. If an agreement is not made by the end of today the government will shut down. 9:15 PM EDT, no deal yet, and Michele Bachmann, Tea Party congresswoman, tells Wolf Bltizer of CNN she will not vote for a compromise deal that keeps Obama care. At 11PM, an agreement is made - ignoring social issues for now - to cut $38 billion from spending for the year to September 30.

Apr 10  In Bahrain, Shia are being described by defenders of the status quo as lazy, ungrateful, sexually odious and as traitors lacking intelligence and education. The Shia are also accused of having conspired with Americans to kill Saddam Hussein (a Sunni) and take over Iraq.

Apr 11  Reports on Bahrain describe a brutally repressive regime that has turned the country into an island of fear

Apr 12  The United Arab Emirates joins Bahrain and Syria in oppression. It has arrested activists whose only crime has been calling for reforms.

Apr 12  In the Ivory Coast yesterday, former President Gbagbo was arrested by French forces working with the United Nations. Gbagbo created an insurrection against the election of his successor, Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo was slow to recognize defeat, and some are still fighting on his behalf. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced her support of Gbagbo's arrest.

Apr 12  China's ministry of health takes moves to curb the overuse of antibiotics that is contributing to evolving micro-organism immunity to medicine. According to China Daily, 80 percent of antibiotics being used in mainland China are "unnecessary." The charge is being made that some of the overuse is encouraged by monetary profit.

Apr 13  In Syria, hundreds have been arrested, and troops continue to encircle the city of Baniyas. There, four people wree shot and killed on the weekend, and 28 people were killed on Friday (the 8th) in Daraa. Witnesses have told al-Jazeera that soldiers have been shot for refusing to fire on protesters - while the government complains that its soldiers have been fired upon. But mass defections by soldiers appear unlikely, as does the rise of urban guerrilla armies. Non-violent protests appear powerless, and oppression appears to be the future for Syria.

Apr 13  Mme butterfly1 offers a variety of sources on interesting developments in Libya, including "Gaddafi's Men Shooting Down Balloons in Tripoli

Apr 14  In Japan, the nuclear crisis has been upgraded to level-7 radiation risk. As stated in an Associated Press article in the Japan Times today, Japan's crisis in not as bad as Chernobyl because it is slower moving. According to the Japanese government, Fukushima's radiation leaks are still one-tenth of those released by Chernobyl. The heaviest radiation leaks at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex occurred in the first days of the crisis. An article at "How Fukushima is and isn't like Chernobyl

Apr 15  In the US the argument exists that taxes on the wealthy should not be raised even a tiny bit in order to keep US companies competitive. Meanwhile, Sweden's knowledge-intensive industries, taking advantage of the country's advanced technological development, sophisticated infrastructure and high general educational level, is competing well, thank you, despite high personal taxes. Personal taxes are higher also in Norway and Germany than they are in the United States, and their companies are also competing well. Corporate taxes are something else. Corporate tax rates differ only slightly in these countries, with Sweden and Norway at 28% and Germany at 25%. The US corporate tax rate is higher. The liberal economist Laura Tyson has written that "In today's world of mobile capital, increasing the corporate tax rate would be a bad way to generate revenues for deficit reduction." But raising personal income taxes on the wealthy is something else.

Apr 17  In Yemen, for the second day, thousands of Yemeni march against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's claim that women protesting against his regime were violating Islamic prohibitions against women mixing with men who are not direct relatives. He told the women to stay home. Also today, in the capital city the army fires again on anti-government protesters. Ten are reported injured.

Apr 17  In Syria more widespread protests and three more reported shot and killed - while President Assad tries to apply a little of the liberalism he acquired from the British, including his wife.

Apr 17  In Cuba at a Communist Party congress, President Raul Castro proposes term limits in an effort to advance politics and Cuba's Communist Party The limits he says would also apply to him.

Apr 18  Representative Joe Walsh from Illinois repeated what has become a Republican credo. Yesterday he could be seen on ABC's This Week stating:. "Every time we cut taxes, revenues have gone up. President Obama claims this is not true. Others point out that the credo is patently false and qualifies as unexamined dogma. The well known economist Nouriel Roubini calls it a religion. Talk show commentator Rush Limbaugh, whom some describe as the Republican Party's intellectual guide, sides with Joe Walsh and has been hammering away on the issue for months - along with describing progressive taxation (against the wealthy) as robbing working people and subsidizing the lazy.

Apr 18  Britain has a budget problem greater than the United States. Conservative members of parliament complain about the Labour Party budget adding to the national debt - which has been worse in Britain than in the United States. Jobs in Britain is also an issue, but conservatives there are different from conservatives in the United States. No British equivalent to Rush Limbaugh exists. British conservatives still talk of keeping taxes down but talk also of promoting economic growth and jobs by investments, including investing in housing to help families get on the housing ladder. Meanwhile, Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, continues to fight for a balanced budget and has ruled out tax cuts to that end.

Apr 18  In the US many working poor are trapped into giving a lot of rent money to landlords rather than putting that money into a mortgage on their own home - despite low mortgage rates and home prices having fallen.

Apr 19  Syria lifts the emergency law that has been in place for 48 years. Peaceful protests are now to be allowed and arbitrary detentions - arrests without a charge - are supposed to end. Early this morning in the city of Homs thousands of demonstrators sitting-in at the city square were fired upon and dispersed. They have been accused of participating in armed insurrection....... 2:30 PM EDT, regime hypocrisy as one hand giveth and the other taketh away: The interior minister calls on people "to refrain from taking part in all marches, demonstrations or sit-ins under any banner whatsoever." He warns that if demonstrations are held, "the laws in force in Syria will be applied in the interest of the safety of the people and the stability of the country."

Apr 20  In Syria, the tactic of appeasing the demonstrators by ending the emergency laws is failing to give people the sense that they have won something. Syrian authorities are not that talented politically - as they continue their oppression. Today in Homs the regime arrests a protest leader, Mahmoud Issa. Homs is still mourning its dead, and it is preparing for a three-day strike.

Apr 21  In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan addresses the nation and speaks against "horrific acts" that killed and maimed innocent citizens. "They set ablaze business premises, private homes and even places of worship," he said. Jonathan is a southerner and a Christian. The tradition has been to rotate between a Christian president and a Muslim president and Jonathan had served as president since February 2010, elevated from the vice-presidency after the illness and death of the Muslim president. Jonathan and those giving him a winning margin in the election last week believe that he deserves a full term before the next rotation. In north of the country, where Muslims dominate, some chose to express their lack of generosity on the election issue by resorting to rampage. The Red Cross estimates that 48,000 people have fled from the violence.

Apr 22 The request has been made that Syria's government show its good intentions by allowing protests to proceed without violent repression. Following Friday prayers, demonstrations again erupt across Syria and government goon squads in various cities again shoot at protesters. Later today: 88 reported killed. (Murderous authoritarianism was defeated in Europe decades ago. It still thrives in the Middle East.)

Apr 25  Yesterday on CNN, Paul O'Neill, US Secretary of the Treasury in 2001 and 2002, told Fareed Zakaria that we should "get rid of individual income taxes and corporate income taxes and payroll taxes and replace it all with a value-added tax." This is a tax on consumption. Rich people buying things rather than investing would be paying their share of taxes. They buy more, they pay more. O'Neilll claims that "It would no longer make any sense for lobbyists to go to Washington to lobby for beneficial things for their interest groups in the tax code." Right now, he adds, hundreds of billions would be saved that goes to administer the present system that misses hundreds of billions more because the present tax code is "incomprehensible and unenforceable."

Apr 25  In Syria, tanks roll into Daraa. More people die. Around the world are people who are outraged. Tweets on Syria jump to new highs.

Apr 26  The Assad regime claims that its army was invited to Daraa by citizens to hunt "extremist terrorist groups." Rather than a careful police operation, eight tanks and a claim of between 4,000 and 6,000 troops came to the town of 70,000 before dawn. Writes Anthony Shadid of the New York Times: "Water, electricity and phone lines were cut, making firsthand accounts difficult and the numbers impossible to verify, and nearby border crossings with Jordan were reported sealed. Snipers took positions on the roofs of mosques, residents said, and a mix of soldiers and armed irregular forces went house to house to search for protesters."

Apr 27  What, me intolerant of criticism? Malawi orders Britain's high commissioner out of the country for saying in private that President Bigu wa Mutharika does not tolerate criticism.

Apr 27  A scientific study declares what should be obvious: that a low IQ score could be the result of low motivation, low intelligence or both. The study finds that Incentives increase IQ scores - not that kids taking SAT tests lack motivation. That sweet passivity and lack of cognitive aggressiveness might account for some girls not being as bright as they could be appears not to have been addressed.

Apr 28  Posturing against "outside interference" in Syria, yesterday Russia and China stopped a Security Council resolution condemning Syria's violence against peaceful protesters. The US, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal expressed their outrage at Syria's crackdown.

Apr 29  Robert Kagan criticizes "pragmatists" and complains that "The Muslim Brotherhood is the strongest political force in Egypt today because Mubarak crushed the moderate, secular opposition. And we let him."

Apr 29  Today is Friday and a "Day of Rage" in Syria. Syria's exiled Muslim Brotherhood calls on Syrians with the words, "You were born free, so don't let the tyrant enslave you." Across Syria, government forces kill at least sixty-two.

Apr 29  England is jolly, as is the entire United Kingdom and Commonwealth, as Prince William of Wales marries Catherine Middleton.

Apr 30  The US dollar drops in value and therefore gasoline costs more in the United States. The dollar has declined for eight consecutive days. Investors are chasing higher returns. The economist Stephen King tells Bloomberg news: "If the Fed is keeping rates very, very low for a long period of time, it just makes the dollar less and less attractive."

May 2011

May 1  Osama bin Laden is shot dead in a raid by US Navy Seals and his body buried at sea - the end of the war he declared against the United States in 1996. Bin Laden was fifty-four.

May 2  Lara Logan, 40 years-old and a 60 Minutes correspondent, breaks her silence on her ordeal in Egypt on the night of celebration over Mubarak's resignation, in early February. After her crew's camera battery "went down" someone said, "Let's take her pants off." Young men started grabbing at her. Then someone shouted that she was an Israeli, a Jew and the "assault turned into a murderous fury." Dragged along the ground, pummeled, beaten, naked and her muscles torn, after something like 20 minutes the mob ran into a fence and into some Egyptian women. A woman dressed head to toe in black, with only her eyes showing, threw herself onto Logan as protection. Logan: "And oh my God, I can't tell you what that moment was like for me. I wasn't safe yet, because the mob was still trying to get at me. But now it wasn't just about me anymore. It was about their women and that was what saved me, I think."

May 3  In Canada's elections yesterday, the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, won a majority of seats in parliament: 167. The New Democratic Party (NDP) climbs to second place with 102 seats, and the Liberals fall to third place with 34. Seats for the French separatist party, Bloc Quebecois, drop from 47 to 4. In the election campaigning, Prime Minister Harper made no promise to change course by abolishing Canada's national health system. Harper is talking about lowering taxes, but his tax policies have been high enough to put Canada's revenues for the year 2010 at 45.8% of its GDP (above Australia and just below Germany) compared to 14% for the United States.

May 4  In wake of the discovery of where Bin Laden had been hiding, India's government expresses concern that perpetrators of the horrific attacks in the city of Mumbai in November 2008 "continue to be sheltered" in Pakistan. And in the US Senate, relations with Pakistan is being questioned.

May 4  Among the people who welcome the passing of Bin Laden, expressed at, a dissenter suggests that the US is controlling the world with a power that is Satanic. He complains that Bin Laden was a hero "until he started disobeying the masters (USA)." He asks, "What kind of memory people have these days?" In the US, meanwhile, an awareness of the limits of US power has been growing, and that awareness is not diminished by the killing of Bin Laden. What has increased are calls to get out of Afghanistan sooner.

May 5  UN human rights chief Navi Pillay accuses Bahrain of not maintaining its international human rights obligations. She describes as "absolutely unacceptable" death sentences imposed by military courts in Bahrain as well as military trials for civilian activists. Bahraini authorities are putting 47 doctors and nurses on trial in a mililtary court, accusing the doctors and nurses of having taken part in anti-regime protests while treating the injured.

May 5  In Egypt, President Mubarak's notorious former security chief, Habib al-Adly, is sentenced to twelve years in jail on charges of money-laundering and profiteering.

May 5  Twitter again demonstrates its capabilities. Shortly before the assault on Bin Laden, a tweet by Sohaib Athar from Abbottabad, Pakistan, told the world that a helicopter was hovering overhead and that it might not be a Pakistani aircraft.

May 6  It's Friday protest day in several cities in Syria. Six people are reported shot: five in Homs and one in Hama.

May 6  Brazil's Supreme Court rules in favor of legal rights for persons in homosexual unions the same rights as those for married heterosexuals.

May 6  In Russia, Nikita Tikhonov is declared guilty of having murdered a journalist and a lawyer. The murdered journalist, Anastasia Baburova, was writing articles that super-patriots like Tikhonov disliked.

May 7  Dr Alia Brahimi, of Oxford and other universities, writes in Al Jazeera that with the death of Bin Laden, al-Qaeda will continue its "descent into nihilistic chaos," dividing into little groupings that will annoy Muslim majorities. She writes that Bin Laden's focus of purpose - defending Islam against the West, however delusional - will dissipate further. She describes al-Qaeda as its own worst enemy, suggesting that Muslims will play a significant role in the demise of a movement.

May 9  Britain to release papers revealing a "guilty secret" about the use of torture against Kenyan rebels during their independence uprising of 1952-59.

May 10  Some people to the right-of-center are celebrating enhanced interrogation (torture), believing that Bin Laden would not or could not have been found without it. And they are criticizing President Obama for not celebrating it as vehemently as they. Some are asking why "enhanced interrogation" is worse than shooting Bin Laden in the head - despite the US having a history of killing the enemy in warfare but not approving the use of torture in warfare.

May 10   At the Washington Post, Richard Cohen writes of "The Myth of American Exceptionalism." He describes it as part of a "culture of smugness" that holds to the notion that the US alone among nations "is beloved of God" - as if God takes an interest in international political boundaries. Cohen faults various leading Republicans for invoking this brand of exceptionalism.

May 10  Despite NATO airpower, the siege of Misrata, Libya's third largest city, continues. Fighting there has been taking place since late February. A tenuous life-line for the city remains from its sea port.

May 11  A turning point in Libya: Qaddafi's forces have been ousted from Misrata's airport, opening another link to the outside world.
May 12  US Senator John McCain, describes waterboarding interrogations as torture and says, "As such, they are prohibited by American laws and values, and I oppose them." He adds that CIA Director Leon Panetta told him the following: "The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times."

May 12  Argentine authorities have arrested three former policemen accused of having participated in throwing a nun, Leonie Duque, and a rights activist, Azucena Villaflor, from an airplane over the ocean in 1977. The military dictatorship under Jorge Videla wanted Argentina protected from these two peaceful political opponents. Writes the BBC: "Hundreds of political prisoners are known to have died this way."

May 13  It is Friday and people are in the streets in Syria, raising their arms and fists and chanting. The dictator Assad has mustered his generosity and announced that there will be no shooting at demonstrators and that anybody who does will be severely punished. Three are reported dead in the city of Homs, where security forces opened fire on demonstrators. No reports, meanwhile, of protests today in Bahrain. Al Jazeera describes the Bahraini government as having destroyed 28 mosques and Shia religious instituions since the crackdown on Shia-led protests began in Mid-March. Bahrain's Justice Ministry announces that the mosques were torn down because they were not licenced.

May 14  Syrian officials announce that troops and tanks are being pulled out of the cities of Baniyas and Daraa. Dictatorships need at least a cowed and cooperative populace, and after having failed to achieve this by military force and having created more intense hostility toward it, the Assad regime tries another move. It announces that next week a "comprehensive national dialogue" will begin in all provinces.

May 16  The International Criminal Court is seeking the arrest of Muammar Gaddafi and two others for crimes against humanity. Gaddafi's deputy Foreign Minister, Khalid Kaim, has responded with the announcement that Libya does not recognise that court's jurisdiction - like most African countries and the United States.

May 16  In Zurich, Switzerland, approximately 85% of votes cast oppose a proposed ban on assisted suicide, and 78% oppose forbidding the service to foreigners.

May 17  In Pakistan, the Saudi embassy has been attacked by grenades and an employee of the embassy has been shot to death while driving his car. Al-Qaeda is known to be hostile to Saudi Arabia and on a rampage against the death of Osama bin Laden. Saudis are describing Pakistan as a chaotic country. A Saudi complains that, "Many more will be killed by the extremists in the name of religion." Another describes Pakistan as "the most dangerous place on earth" and is "sitting on a live bomb ready to explode any time." Meanwhile, Pakistan's parliament has condemned the US attack on Bin Laden and drone incursions into Pakistan and is reviewing its relationship with the United States. And Pakistan's prime minister hails China as his country's "best and most trusted friend."

May 18  In Uganda, rights groups criticize the police crackdown on protests. At least nine people have been killed. Ugandan journalists have been arrested and denied bail. President Yoweri Museveni criticizes the BBC and Al-Jazeera for inciting the protests. Museveni has been president since early 1986. In the 1990s he was lauded as one of a new generation of African leaders. In February he was re-elected with 68% of the vote. His opponent in that election, Dr Besigye, was one of the injured protesters. Museveni claims that he had "violently resisted arrest." Dr Besigye says he was cheated in February's election.

May 19  In Syria, President Assad says that his security services made some mistakes in handling demonstrations and that the "crisis" is over. The United States puts santions on Assad and six other senior Syrian officials - a symbolic move because these people have no assets in the United States. The Assad regime describes the sanctions as "serving Israeli interests."

May 19  In Misrata it's been three days since a bombardment by Gaddafi forces have hit the city. City defenders have pushed Gaddafi forces out of range. Supplies are arriving from Benghazi. The city is in a celebratory mood and congratulating their grinning armed fighters. In the east, meanwhile, anti-Gaddafi forces are gathering to move westward to Brega.

May 20  Research in the United States by evolutionary theorist Michale Lynch of Indiana University working with Ariel Fernandez of the University of Chicago finds a form of biological change heretofore unknown. This change takes place in proteins within a cell - in a region called dehydrons that becomes unstable in a watery environment. With this instability, "sticky" proteins are more likely to work together in building more complex networks of gene and protein interractions.

May 20  President Obama announces support for transitions to democracy in the Middle East. He scolds Bahrain and Syria's Bashar Assad and calls for a settlement with the Palestinians that includes land swaps and a return to 1967 borders. Israel's president, Netanhayu, is reported to be furious. Some Arabs see Obama's announcement as weak and ask why he does not support a UN resolution to that effect and against Israeli expansions - a move by Obama that would be counter to his declaration of friendship with Israel. Meanwhile it's Friday: more demonstrations in Syria and more deaths.

May 21  The report is out on the mine explosion that trapped and killed twenty-nine coal miners in West Virginia in April, 2010. The report faulted the mine owner, Massey Energy corporation, and found the US Mine Safety and Health Administration lax in its oversight and that it "failed its duty as the watchdog for coal miners." (Reported in detail on the News Hour on May 19, 2010)

May 23  The Australian Climate Commission complains that climate science is being attacked in the media by people with no credentials in the field - people questioning that human emissions are causing global warming. Australia is one of the highest per capita carbon emitters, and the government seeks public support for its proposed carbon tax.

May 23  In Spain, young leftist radicals, conservatives and others, including Basque and perhaps Catalan nationalists, are blaming Prime Minister Zapatero's "socialist" People's Party for three-years of economic crisis and 21% unemployment. In yesterday's parliamentary elections the People's Party suffered a substantial defeat. Zapatero has been pursuing unpopular austerity measures to combat Spain's debt problem, and his party's loss causes credit worries and Spanish bonds to fall.

May 24  Geometric logic is believed by some to have been a Western invention. A study of a tribe in the Amazon, the Mundurucu, reveals an intelligence about lines, points and angles on a plane and a spherical surface that is no less than that of French and US school children.

May 24  Syria's foreign minister describes the European Union's sanctions against the murderous dictator Bashar Assad as harmful to the Syrian people and as "a black page to their [Europe's] record of colonialism in the region." (French colonialism in Syria ended in 1946.)

May 25  Evangelical broadcaster, Harold Camping, postpones the Apocalypse date to October 21. He explains that it didn't come on the 21st of this month because he "miscalculated," suggesting a math problem rather than the usual misuse of metaphor and analogy. He says it has now "dawned" on him that God would spare humanity "hell on Earth for five months." Obviously he still believes that he can know God's mind - an ability claimed by many around the world, including some casting scorn upon him.

May 26  Another super-nationalist hater meets his come-uppance. The fugitive former Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic, is arrested in Serbia. He hated the Ottoman Turk 500-year occupation of Serbia. That ended in the 1800s. But Mladic failed to let go of the past and despised Bosnian Muslims as Turks for their progenitors having converted to Islam. General Mladic is now on his way to the International Criminal Tribunal in the Netherlands where he faces the charge of massacring at least 7,500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.

May 27  A planned protest packs Cairo's Tahrir square for "a Day of Anger." Protesters say they want a faster pace of democratic reforms, and there are expressions of fear that former president Mubarak and his family will be pardoned.

May 28  In Syria, eight more protesters are reported as having been shot and killed yesterday. Also yesterday a few hundred more were born than died, and a few hundred young people grew old enough for political action. A broad section of the public will continue to hate the Assad regime. Even authoritarians need broad support - church authoritarians and political authoritarians. Genghis Khan had the support of his fellow Mongols, and people centuries ago believed in their monarch and looked to him or her for help. Bashar Assad will never be able to rule without brutality. You are watching the Assad family destroy itself.

May 29  Computers and automation have eliminated a lot of jobs for Americans. So too have companies sending jobs overseas. A lot of recent college grads are unemployed or not working at a job that has anything to do with a college education. Many people can only find part-time work. A not uncommon ideological response to under-employment could be seen a couple of days ago expressed by Dennis Miller on Bill O'Reilly's "No Spin Zone." Miller thinks that the government is taking too much of his money. He repeated his mantra: "Help the helpless; forget the clueless." He proclaimed a Darwinian survival of the fittest solution to unemployment. O'Reilly appeared delighted. In 2008, Miller looked for a presidential candidate, gathered his clues and supported Rudy Giulani.

May 31  Civil war continues in Yemen. More than 50 killed during demonstrations in the city of Taiz after protest leaders warn followers not to "fall into the trap of violence."

May 31  Social change continues in Saudi Arabia as authorities release Manal Al-Sharif, 32, jailed on May 21 for violating the ban on women driving cars.

May 31  In Greece, conservative political leader Antonis Samaras has said that the government's new austerity plan would "flatten the Greek economy and destroy Greek society". The prime minister, Papandreou, a socialist, has been trying to gain a cross-party agreement for further spending cuts. Despite this, reports that Germany will make concessions to facilitate a new aid package for Greece sends the euro up against the dollar, which makes oil higher in the United States.

June 2011

Jun 1  In the US many believe, as Thomas Jefferson did, that if anyone takes away their existing political freedom they have the right to take up arms. Two days ago, Syrians picked up weapons in an attempt to repel advancing government troops on their towns.

Jun 1 Yesterday in Syria, Assad declared general amnesty a general pardon for "crimes" committed before 31 May.

Jun 1  Libya's Colonel Gaddafi says he wants a ceasefire that would stop all hostilities and that "all Libyans be given a chance to talk among themselves" to determine the country's future. Opposition leaders reject Gaddafi's offer.

Jun 2  Comedic relief from Stephen Colbert jokes about Harold Camping predicting the end of the world: "Camping used the most precise method available: taking numbers at random from a 400 year-old English translation from a group of tendentiously related ancient Middle Eastern texts transcribed from Greek, Aramaic oral histories." (Broadcast May 31.)

Jun 2  In Yemen yesterday dozens more were killed, and today the fighting intensifies. Behind this is President Saleh's refusal to sign an agreement to step down because he wants his departure accompanied by the departure of the three sons of a political opponent, Sheikh al-Ahmar. An analyst quoted by the BBC, claims: "It is offensive to President Saleh that his relatives will leave and the opponents will stay."

Jun 4  The BBC reports this morning that more than sixty people were killed yesterday, Friday, in the city of Hama - another day of protests across Syria. State television claimed that about eighty security personnel had been wounded. Yesterday there was no internet in Syria. And foreign journalists are still not allowed in the country.

Jun 4  Yesterday in the US, in response to news of a "sharp slowdown in hiring and a small increase in the unemployment rate," Speaker of the House John Boehner addressed the employment issue, saying: "We can't raise taxes on the very people who create jobs..." Some who dislike Boehner's economics complain that big corporations, rather than short of money to invest, are sitting on piles of cash and have been sending money abroad.

Jun 5   President Obama has called for a crackdown against people who hire illegals - to remove incentives for the illegals to come to the United States and to create more jobs for US citizens. Republicans in Congress speak of employment as the foremost issue but balk at joining Obama and Congressional Democrats in moving now on immigration reform.

Jun 6   Yesterday In the town of Jisr al-Shughour government troops and tanks were in action and there are reports of more than 35 deaths, including at least six policemen. According to the BBC, state TV "showed pictures of burned-out public buildings, police stations and vehicles in Jisr al-Shughour."

Jun 7 Japan's nuclear safety agency has announced that more than twice as much radiation leaked from its Fukushima nuclear plants than had been estimated during the crises of March, April and May. The agency added that meltdowns had taken place in three reactors more quickly than had been realized and that the plant is still leaking radiation. More evacuations are being considered from areas beyond the 12-mile radius that has been evacuated.

Jun 7  Nathan Myhrvold, one of the sharpest minds on technology, talked on the 5th with Fareed Zakaria about Japan's nuclear power plant crisis. Of the 1960s-built Fukushima plants he said that they "never should have had those generators as low as they did." (The generators were flooded by invading sea water.) He spoke of superior engineering today, including superior generators, and he mentioned an ability to use nuclear waste "to run the whole US economy for more than 100 years just on stuff we've already dug up." He doesn't like public panic or the US giving up on nuclear energy - the way that the Germans appear to be doing.

Jun 8  Syrian authorities describe "armed gangs" as responsible for killing more than 120 security personnel three days ago at Jisr al-Shughur. Syrian "activists" say that the security personnel were shot by government troops after they refused to open fire on civilians. Protest leaders in Jisr al-Shughur have denied that those opposed to the Assad regime there have committed any violence. No protest leaders in Syria are publicly suggesting that violence will have to be a part of ending the Assad regime - by freedom fighters rather than terrorists as described by the regime.

Jun 8  Armed men have cleared Gaddafi forces from the town of Yafran (population 67,000) 66 miles southwest of Tripoli. In May, Gaddafi forces shut off the water system there and were blocking food supplies.

Jun 9  Al Qaeda's number-two leader, Ayman Zawahiri, speaks fantasy about Osama bin Laden terrifying the US in death. Rather than being terrified, more people in the US are concluding that it is best to let people in North Africa and the Middle East deal with al-Qaeda as they please. Al-Qaeda types have been described recently as having a fading interest in winning politically by blowing up Westerners. This fade is expected to increase with the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan and Iraq this year. In the US more people look for defense against terrorism short of committing long-standing military units abroad.

Jun 10  US Democratic Senator Jim Webb complains that our strategy in Afghanistan of securing an area and moving on is not working because the areas do not stay secured. Republican Senator Richard Lugar says "Despite ten years of investment and attempts to better understand the culture and the region's actors, we remain in a cycle that produces relative progress, but fails to deliver a secure political or military resolution." President Obama's new ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, awaiting confirmation, has a different view. He is among those still terrified by bin Laden. He says that "much work remains to be done to ensure that al-Qaida can never again threaten us from Afghanistan, with the Taliban providing safe haven."
Jun 11  Turkey's prime minister condemns Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters as "inhumane'' and says Ankara could support a UN resolution against Syria. The foreign minister of Syria resorts to the Orwellian language, complaining that any action the UN Security Council takes against his country would embolden "extremists and terrorists" to continue their crimes. Yesterday (Friday), protests continued across Syria, and the Assad regime, using attack helicopters, killed 25 more people.

Jun 12  The FBI's most wanted al-Qaeda militant in Africa, Fazul Abdullah Mohammad, was been shot dead a few days ago at a government checkpoint in Somalia. He is believed to have played a key role in the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and in attacking Israeli targets in Kenya in 2002. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton describes his death as "a significant blow" to al-Qaeda.

Jun 13  Yesterday in Syria a most trusted force, the Fourth Brigade, with helicopter gunships and as many as 200 tanks took control of Jisr al-Shughour. The story of Jisr al-Shughour is still being described: On the 5th of this month an army of conscripts sent against the city had defections; some of the defectors were killed; others fled into the hills; and most town folk have fled the city. Yesterday, an anti-Assad force remained and confronted the overwhelmingly superior government force - a violation of the first rule in insurgent warfare. Apparently they were annihilated.

Jun 14  Among Republican presidential candidates in the US the talk continues about the need to create jobs and how Obama is ruining the economy. There has been some support among Republican legislators for a bill that would invest in infrastructure and job creation through an "infrastructure bank" that, in the words of columnist E.J. Dionne, "would bring private as well as government money to public works projects and make them less subject to political earmarking." Another columnist, Fareed Zakaria, says that it "would add very little to the deficit" and would put more people to work and paying taxes. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Chuck Hagel are two Republicans strongly in favor of the bill. But enough Republicans are against the bill to block its passage. They are sticking to their opposition against anything that can be called stimulus (nevermind investment) spending. Yesterday, in the Washington Post, Dionne suggests that they also don't want to help Obama look good. The title of Dionne's column is "Gridlocking the lives of the jobless."

Jun 14  Someone (aka Vmidurk) responds to Dionne's column by pointing out that under President Bush the average unemployment rate (for 8 years) was 5.3% and with Obama the average unemployment rate (in 2 years and 5 months) has been 9.4%. A little thing like the US having to dig out from the worst economic crisis in many decades was not mentioned - another complexity that challenges those opposed to Obama.

Jun 15  Speaking before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell speaks of fire seasons that have lengthened by more than 30 days and that "Our scientists believe this is due to a change in climate." Senator Al Franken, Democrat from Minnesota, suggests to his fellow committee members that they consider climate change as a key issue. Senator James Risch, Republican from Idaho, complains that Franken lacks a degree in fire science or natural resources. Risch received a BS degree in forestry in 1965.

Jun 16  Today a suicide bomber belonging to a group that thinks like al-Qaeda set off a bomb in Abuja powerful enough to kill at least thirty people and destroy forty automobiles. According to the BBC, "The group accuses Nigeria's government of being corrupted by Western ideas and wants to overthrow the state and impose Islamic law on the country." It's a fight that the US can leave to Nigeria's government to wage, similar to Indonesia, which today jailed radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir.

Jun 17  Non-stop media focus on US Congressman Anthony Weiner is ending after more than two weeks. Weiner reversed himself yesterday and announced his resignation. Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly gave us his perspective, saying that, "Once a country begins to accept corruption in government then it is just a matter of time before that country falls apart. Ancient Rome best example." Weiner sent some lewd photos on the internet to a few women. The damage he did was largely to himself and his wife. (The Roman Empire fell apart not because of such personal naivetes or individual moral failings but in part at least because of the political weaknesses inherent with big empires.)

Jun 17  Staying with Fox News, morality and the mangling of history, Glenn Beck a couple of weeks ago connected decadence associated with the movie about German decadence during the Weimar republic, Cabaret, and Hitler's mass murder of Jews that took place after the start of World War II. Hitler rose to power speaking against big city decadence and he won a following among rural voters also opposed to it. There was no connection between that "decadence" and the murder of millions of Jews.

Jun 17  Staying with morality, Russia's foreign minister reiterates that Russia will veto the UN resolution that condemns the Assad regime's brutalities, a resolution that also calls for UN human rights monitors to be allowed into Syria and for countries to stop supplying weapons to the Assad regime. Russia has been an ally and weapons supplier to the Assad regime.

Jun 18  In recent months Greece's government has not been collecting enough revenue to match its expenditures let alone the surplus needed to pay its debts. Government debt has worsened because, it is said, economic activity has declined with the government's austerity plan. So the government has been selling government owned enterprises, privatizing more of Greece's economy to raise money, and it has been cutting more spending. Unemployment has been rising - to 15.9 percent in the first three months of this year. People are complaining about hardship. Suicides are up. Soup kitchen lines are longer. There are strikes. Holders of Greece's debt, largely French bankers and other bankers across the globe, are worried about getting the money owed them.

Jun 19  Demonstrators in Athens wave Greek flags and shout, "Thieves! Traitors!" A businessman explains: "Most of the people here want all the measures to be rescinded and a part of the debt to be written off, or all of it, at least the part that comes from banks." (BBC News)

Jun 20  After wandering around Syria for a week incognito, Lebanese writer and scholar Fawaz Gerges reminds us that the world still has many people willing to support a murderous dictator. Gerges reports that the Assad regime has support of something like 40 percent of the people, that the protests are not as large as have occurred in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen and that the Assad regime may be able to hold on to power. (CNN)

Jun 21  In various cities in Syria, people attend rallies in support of President Assad. In Damascus, Rateb Shallah, head of the Syrian Chambers of Commerce Federation, expresses confidence in another speech by Assad that promises reforms. Says Shallah: "I hope it will be a turning point in solving the crisis and that it will meet the demands of the Syrian people." (BBC News)

Jun 22  In Kenya, the tax office accuses Members of Parliament of failing to pay taxes on their salaries and perks. Meanwhile the MPs have voted themselves annual salaries and perks for 2012 to as high as $126,000. Kenya ranks 199th in per capita GDP. Its division between rich and poor, its corruption rating and its revenue as a percentage of GDP are typical for poorer countries: well below average. And like most countries, Kenya in 2010 failed to balance its budget.

Jun 23  Pakistan's army is described by Fareed Zakaria as the big power in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region with the coming drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan - announced last night by President Obama. Zakaria writes that the evidence is now overwhelming that Pakistan's army, traditionally secular, is now "infiltrated at all levels by violent Islamists, including Taliban and al-Qaeda sympathizers."

Jun 23  An article by BBC News has described Indonesian moderates as becoming "more vocal" in their opposition to the militant Islamism represented by The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). According to the article, "A recent survey found that almost half of high school pupils around Jakarta approved of the use of violence in the name of religion and morality."

Jun 24  It's Friday - protest day in Syria. In Morocco, where King Mohammed VI has not been shooting or jailing democracy advocates, there may or may not be a small demonstration in an urban center, but it's peaceful - while the nation awaits a referendum on a new constitution to be held on July 1. In Syria, tens of thousands are again in the streets, hating President Bashar al-Assad, and government forces are again shooting people.

Jun 26  An expert on debt, Mohamed El-Erian, who oversees the assets of PIMCO, the world's largest bond fund manger, recognizes that Greece's budget cutting and austerity measures are depressing its economy. He repeats what others have said, that Greece's problem could "contaminate" Europe. The United States problem, he says, is "nothing like Greece." The US still "has time" to deal with its fiscal policy issues. The US can "solve it medium term," and the solution can be addressed through political compromise.

Jun 27  A headline in today's New York Times reads "Europe Stifles Drivers in Favor of Alternatives." One line in the lengthy article reads, "While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has generated controversy in New York by 'pedestrianizing' a few areas like Times Square, many European cities have already closed vast areas to car traffic." Meanwhile, according to, the US has been consuming almost twice as much oil per person as Denmark: 68.672 barrels per 1,000 persons per year in the US and 34.857 barrels in Denmark (2007 figures).

Jun 28  Much of Greece's debt is held by French banks. France's president announced yesterday that he and his country's banks plan to let Greece take 30 years to pay its debt. The US stock market rallied.

Jun 28  In Syria, the Assad regime has done something that appears clever. Yesterday it allowed and it apparently organized a group of dissidents to meet openly in a hotel in Damascus to discuss Syria's political crisis. The well publicized meeting fits with President Assad's call for a national dialogue. It also threatens to divide the protest movement and diminish those protesters who say that the only solution is for Assad to go.

Jun 29  Amid wild and futile protests in the streets that includes anarchists, and an on-going labor union strike with workers outraged by the idea of a 30 percent pay cut, Greece's parliament approves by a vote of 155 to 138 the government's austerity plan. The government plans aims at sacrifices by the whole of a unified nation. Demonstrators wanted only the rich to pay - not feasible according to the Socialist government's calculations.

July 2011

Jul 2  Yesterday in Syria after Friday prayers hundreds of thousands marched nationwide. Human rights groups say that at least 24 people were killed by security forces. The Assad regime has begun to allow foreign journalists into the country, and one of them, Deborah Amos of National Public Radio, reported from Syria yesterday on the News Hour that the city of Hama was belng run by protesters. She spoke of some Syrians afraid of the protesters because they didn't know who the protesters were. This involved the tolerance of brutalities by people not themselves under attack, people supporting the peace and stability that dictators love.

Jul 2  US Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Ohio Democrat) met recently with Assad and yesterday told CNN's Eliot Spitzer that Assad is "aware of the need to bring democratic reforms and understands that time is running short." Kucinich is opposed to anti-Assad violence and civil war and he scolded Spitzer for his lack off concern over "what comes next." Spitzer, on the other hand, appears to be among those willing to take a chance on great numbers of people who join a struggle for the sake of liberty, freedom and democracy.

Jul 3  Democracy triumphs in the Kingdom of Thailand. The new prime minister will be Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of exiled Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup and was the hero of Red Shirt protesters and much of the rural population. Affluent urbanites disliked his reforms and higher taxes. The outgoing prime minister concedes victory to his rival - Thailand's first woman prime minister.

Jul 4  While in Syria troops in the city of Hama are raiding homes and arresting people, reforms in Morocco expressed in a referendum win big - too big according to Moroccan protesters. They march and call the reforms "window dressing." They are free from government harassment but politically isolated. According to BBC News the yes vote on King Mohammed's new constitution is supported by all "main political parties, unions, civic groups [and] religious leaders." The king is to remain head of state, the military and a religious figurehead. A prime minister is to run the government and be chosen as are prime ministers in Britain, and an independent judiciary is to be reinforced. The European Union supports the changes, saying "it signals a clear commitment to democracy." King Mohammed's tolerance toward dissent appears to be working, while hatred for Syria's prevaricating dictator, Assad, remains unabated.

Jul 5  Many of us, including a lot of Republicans, recognize that business people these days are sitting on a lot of money rather than investing in economic growth and creating jobs. There are economists who blame this on consumers not spending creating less of a market for whatever goods companies produce. Some others want to blame President Obama. They say that business people aren't spending because Obama has created uncertainty concerning taxes. It fits their stance against new taxation of any kind. Their theory asks us to believe that because of an increase in PERSONAL income taxes on superwealthy executives, CORPORATIONS would be reluctant to invest to catch up with consumer willingness to buy.

Jul 8   A half million or hundreds of thousands in the Syrian city of Hama are reported to have taken to the streets today. They treat the ambassadors from France and from the United States as heroes. Many are carrying olive branches and chanting: "We only kneel to God." One proclaims: "As long as we have no security forces, we have no violence." Elsewhere across Syria today, according to reports, at least 14 are killed, including six in a Damascus suburb. (BBC News)

Jul 9  South Sudan celebrates its first day of politiclal independence.

Jul 9  In Malaysia, 1,650 are arrested (according to the police) for participating in an illegal protest in Kuala Lumpur. Protests are allowed, but a permit was not given for a large protest in the capital. Rally organisers want electoral reforms and fair coverage by government-linked news media.

Jul 11  Britain's phone-hacking scandal and the fall of Rupert Murdock's News of the World newspaper originates with the British public's appetite for stories about murders and tiddle-taddle - as described today by columnist Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post. It's the same appetite for the sensational that results in purchases of supermarket tabloids in the US also owned by Murdock and that influences the delivery of "news" on a variety of commercial television stations.
Eliot Spitzer Search Spitzer
Eliot Spitzer. Search Spitzer-Bozellto watch Spitzer's interview

with Media Research Center founder L. Brent Bozell III.

Jul 13  Eliot Spitzer has been dropped by CNN as prime time host of a program that was respected by many as a stimulating and brainy 8pm television alternative. Yours truly was one of what must have been many who were delighted that an able man like Spitzer had been able to pick himself back up from the mistake he made that caused him to resign as governor of New York. Tim Graham, the analyst at Media Research Foundation, a conservative group dedicated to the elimination of liberal bias in the media, sees it differently. On, Graham is quoted as saying,
It's one thing [for CNN] to say, 'We're going to have a politician, a Democrat politician, host a talk show' on a network that's billing itself as the centrist alternative to Fox and MSNBC; that was confusing ... But much worse than that was that Eliot Spitzer was a disgraced man who solicited high-priced prostitutes. He was lucky he wasn't behind bars instead of on television.

Jul 15  Another Friday and more of the Assad regime dialoguing with bullets. According to Aljazeera, the "biggest protests so far" occurred today, and "14 protesters have been killed across Syria."

Jul 16   Annual World Population Day occurred on the 11th with little notice. The PBS television program Need To Know mentioned it yesterday and described the decline in concern starting after the Nixon administration - Nixon having been concerned. There were businessmen and land speculators who saw profits in population increases. There were those with a religious orientation who were opposed to family planning and abortion. There were those who saw concern with population growth as directed against blacks, and there was the exaggeration in Paul Ehrlich's book Population Bomb. Europe and industrialized Asian countries have addressed the issue of population somewhat successfully. Among the industrialized powers the United States is the fastest growing - a little under 3 million more people per year.

Jul 17  A Gallup poll taken last week has 42% voting against raising the debt ceiling and 22% for, despite the realization by all who have an understanding of the debt problem that not raising the debt ceiling would produce economic disaster. In other words, leadership is required from the Senate and Congress, not over-simplification and demagoguery. Hats off to those among the 35% who chose the "don't know enough" category.

Jul 19  Time magazine reports that the research arm of the consulting firm McKinsey has compared the overall US debt with that of other countries - that is government debt, individual household debt, corporate debt and bank debt added together and compared to our GDP. The US's debt is equal to 275% of our GDP, compared to over 450% for Britain, about the same for Japan, 350% for Spain and a little above 300% for France. The US debt level is about the same as Germany's, and Germany is said to be performing well economically.

Jul 20  In Malaysia, Ms Kamariah Ali belongs to a sect that believes in the healing powers and purity of water. She describes herself as no longer a Muslim. Malaysia is 60 percent Muslim. Malaysia's civil court has ruled that she must be tried in an Islamic court because she is a Muslim, and there she will be tried for apostasy.

Jul 22  Speaking of food, Josette Sheeran of the U.N. World Food Program has recently said that, "For the first time in most people's memory we're in a post-surplus world." She was in Indonesia and pointed out that many children there are without adequate nutrition and their physical brains are not developing as well as children who are getting sufficient nutrition. One bad drought or one bad flood, she said, means higher food prices and more food deprivation. Indonesia has a population growth rate estimated at 1.07 percent per year, roughly 2.6 million people per year.

Jul 23  The city of Hama has been described as 80 percent with the protesters and 20 percent "opposed or unsure." Youths in the city are organizing defensive positions against government forces and documenting the missing and dead. People are gathering as they did in Cairo in February and they are singing songs, including one which has become an anthem: "Come on Bashar, leave." Ibrahim Qashoush became prominent singing these songs at rallies until earlier this month when he was snatched away. The next day his body was pulled from a river. His throat had been cut and his vocal cords ripped out. (Told by Anthony Shadid of the New York Times to Jeffrey Brown of the News Hour.)

Jul 25  What is "cultural Marxism?" Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian who killed 93 or so people three days ago, saw himself as fighting multiculturalism and cultural Marxism. In the US, Pat Buchanan and Congressman Ron Paul have been described as also oppossed to "cultural Marxism." To associate Buchanan or Paul with what Breivik has done would be dumb about as simple-minded as the article that describes cultural Marxism as the corruption of America. It can be found on the internet. (Search ron paul and cultural marxism.) The article suggests that the aim of the cultural Marxists is to sneak into the United States the Marxism that gripped Stalinist ideologues in the thirties and forties. I have news for them: that Marxism is gone, and was not as pervasive in the 1960s as described in the article. It doesn't even exist in China. The article mentions Jerry Rubin, the notorius sixties radical. Rubin detested Marx. He and Brevik had one thing in common: politics by theatre. That was before Rubin became a stockbroker.

Jul 25  Ayaan Hirsi Ali, known for her hostility toward multi-culturalism, writes today on Facebook: "Hate is never the answer. Our hearts go out to everyone in Norway."

Jul 27  Nigeria's president since early 2010, Goodluck Jonathan, asks members of parliament to amend the constitution to limit presidents to one-term in office. With this, he says, politicians would focus more on governance and less on re-election. Jonathan is an example of a new breed of leader coming to the fore in Africa. It's Doctor Goodluck Jonathan, by the way. He holds an M.Sc. degree in Hydrobiology and Fisheries biology, and a Ph.D. degree in Zoology.

Jul 27   A new poll from Reuters/Ipsos has 31 percent of respondents blaming congressional Republicans for the breakdown in the budget negotiations and 21 percent holding President Obama responsible. In other words Republican rhetoric is not doing as well as the president's rhetoric, perhaps because more of the public believes as Obama does that people with super-incomes should be paying more in taxes than their secretaries and Republicans remain 100 percent anti-tax. Meanwhile, some on the anti-Obama side of the debate claim that Obama isn't taking the debt problem seriously enough. Instead, many on Obama's side see the debate as a question of what is best for the economy including the debt. It's still pro and con about trickle down economics and compromise versus all-or-nothing.

Jul 30  Some US Congressmen believe they are uttering profundities when they tell us that we are spending too much money and should stop spending more than we take in as revenues. They repeat the old cliche that when you are in a hole you should stop digging. Indeed, any simpleton can see that we have an economic problem, but they accuse those who don't stick with their simplicities as being illogical. Staying with their rhetoric, they give no recognition to the factual complexities that impinge on choices as to HOW BEST to overcome the nation's debt. They don't like complexity. But they and the rest of us realize, do we not, that simpliticity can be dangerous.

August 2011

Aug 1 The Global Competitiveness Report, published by the Word Economic Forum (a Swiss non-profit organization) has released its 2012-2013 rankings. Switzerland leads. Then comes Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany and the United States.

Aug 1  Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shot in the head by Jared Loughner in January, returns to the House of Representatives to vote. She is greeted with applause, cheers, hugs and acclaim from the rostrum.

Aug 2  South Africa's high speed train is up and running between the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg - a 20 minute trip. During rush hour by car the trip can take a couple of hours. The train's top speed is 100 miles per hour, and it cost 3.8 billion dollars to put into operration. The government plans more investment in this infrastructure. South Africa has less than one-fourth the per capita GDP of the United States. Its infrastructure ranking has been listed as 56th compared to 23rd for the US, just behind Spain. First is Switzerland.

Aug 3  The Republicans have won in the budget bargaining, the Democrats winning the raising of the debt ceiling and the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, saying he is happy in getting 98 percent of what he wanted. The debate over economic policy will continue. Agreeing with the conservative Republicans is John Taylor, economics professor at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, who was a Treasury official in the George W. Bush administration. With the notorious pundits Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, he believes that Obama's stimulus did not work, and he is waiting for businessmen to be inspired to hire by their increased confidence in the economy. It appears that the Democrats will be powerless and the economy will remain unstimulated at least until January 2013.

Aug 4  The UN Security Council responds to about as bad as it gets in dictatorial brutalities by merely condemning the Assad regime's "widespread violations of human rights." And, matching the oft-spoken words of a well known and respected pontiff, it calls for "an immediate end to all violence." Russia and China added to the UN's weakness regarding the Assad regime's violence by voting against a stronter resolution.

Aug 5  Amnesty International complained yesterday that the UN Security Council's response to the recent bloodshed in Syria is "completely inadequate." The Amnesty spokesperson added that, "The UN must act now, with a firm and legally binding position. At the very least, its position must include imposing an arms embargo, freezing the assets of President al-Assad and other officials suspected of responsibility for crimes against humanity, and referring the situation to the ICC Prosecutor," Amnesty International has received the names of more than 1,500 people believed to have been killed since pro-reform protests began in mid-March. Today, Friday, security forces again fired with live ammunition and tear gas against protesters in various cities, and, in the Qadam district of Damascus, protesters carried a banner reading: "Bashar is slaughtering the people and the international community is silent."

Aug 9  Late Friday, Standard & Poor's lowered its US credit rating from AAA to AA+. On Monday stocks in Asia and Europe were down 2 or 3 percent and in the US the Dow fell 5.6% - the biggest fall for the Dow since the 2008 economic crisis. Today - Tuesday - stocks bounced back, the Dow rising 3.98% (429.92 points).

Aug 9  Standard & Poor's explained its move as caution against the prospect of political gridlock preventing the recovery necessary to paying down the debt. Democrats have been calling it the "Tea Party Downgrade." Tea Party Republicans and their fellow travelers have been vociferous in blaming the downgrade on Obama. When asked about the responsibility of Congress for the budget, the conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly has said yes but but Obama is failing to lead.

Aug 9  Standard & Poor's and both Democrats and Republicans recognize that economic growth is necessary to raise revenues to address the debt. Meanwhile, Republicans continued to denounce stimulus spending. Speaking on the anti-stimulus side of the debate, Steve Forbes, on Sunday on CNN proclaimed counterfactually that, "You never get a recovery from more spending." Others continue to claim that the Obama stimulus early in his administration was of no help to the economy. And, on Fox News, Bill O'Reilly yesterday argued against progressive adjustments in wealth division while claiming that there is no wealth to divide: he proclaimed that we're broke.

Aug 10  Armed offenses into cities and towns by the Assad regime continue - the latest in the northeast of Syria. Meanwhile, Saudi King Abdullah has denounced the offensives as unacceptable, and this has encouraged Syria's Sunni population. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait have withdrawn their ambassadors from Syria. Turkey's foreign minister yesterday urged Assad to stop killing protesters. Syria's state-run news agency has responded defiantly to Assad's critics by announcing the government's will to relentlessly fight "terrorist groups," referring to the few who have armed themselves rather than present themselves for slaughter. The majority of protesters remain non-violent with hope of more erosion of support for Assad within the country.

Aug 11  About the motives of those who have been rioting and looting in various cities in Britain these last few days, Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post observes that they are not protesting with signs or talking to the press as did protestors in Egypt. These are people not deprived of political democracy. They are not students protesting rising costs in education or housewives protesting rising food prices. Their manner suggests that dignity is not their concern. They are encouraging each other with hand-held high-tech devices to grab what they can from stores - inedible things - while expressing their defiance by breaking glass and trashing cars. There are indications of envy of the well-to-do among them. An observer complains that "the welfare state really has left a generation of young people feeling both dependent on government handouts and entitled to more." Someone else writes: "They are like penned-in animals protesting that the farmer isn't putting enough feed into their trough." However deprived they feel relative to the greater affluence of others, they are being considered by society in general and by the David Cameron government as criminals.

Aug 13  In Syria, masses of people refuse to diminish their protests despite the dictator Assad's attempt to terrorize them with brutality. Writes BBC News: "Activists said at least 16 people died on Friday [yesterday] as protesters came under fire in towns and cities across the country." Also yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained that buying oil and gas from Syria and exporting arms there were giving Assad "comfort in his brutality." Yesterday in Syria were chants of "Death to Assad." Assad's forces are entering cities and then withdrawing rather than occupying. When they withdraw, people come back into the streets, encouraged by their numbers. The logic of events leaves local freedom fighters to deal with Assad's local agents. It's a battle Assad appears unable to win.

Aug 15   Over the weekend one of the Republicans running for president at the Iowa state fair, Rick Santorum, said that we would be all right if we would just believe in the people. Exactly which people amid all the conflicting opinions we should believe in he didn't say, but some of us suspect that he was referring to those who side with him.

Aug 15   Another confusing line, also approved with applause and squeals, was a suggestion delivered by Ron Paul that the nation's troubles stemmed from not following the Constitution. He said that "If we'd just follow the Constitution we'd be all right." It leaves some of us wondering how our great judicial system has allowed the nation to drift away from the Constitution - while led as it is by a conservative Supreme Court and legislators and everyone else, especially those with wealth to protect, free to litigate?

Aug 17  In India citizens are fed up with what they describe as corruption of the political class. The crusading leader of the movement, Anna Hazare, started a hunger strike because only part of his proposed legislation has government support. The government has arrested Hazare to protect him from himself, and today tens of thousands are in the streets for him, demonstrating their support.

Aug 18  In India, anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare has agreed to the government's offer that he leave prison. Hazare's aides say he will extend his hunger strike for fifteen days in a public park. Hazare wants no watered-down compromise version of his proposed anti-corruption legislation, and Prime Minister Singh accuses him of trying to circumvent democracy.

Aug 18  In Chile, a commission investigating human rights abuses during the reign of General Pinochet (1973-90) adds 9,800 more people to a list of persons held as political prisoners and tortured, raising the total of recognized victims to 40,018.

Aug 19  Yesterday, President Obama demanded that Bashar al- Assad, President of Syria, step aside, and Secretary of State Clinton said, "The transition to democracy in Syria has begun." This is a move coordinated with leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Turkey. With the European Union it includes freezing Syrian assets and sanctions against buying Syrian oil. The protest movement in Syria is described as encouraged. Also there was news yesterday that Assad told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that military and police operations against demonstrators has ended. Today Syria's military attacked the populations of various cities, and another 20 people are reported killed.

Aug 21  Rebels are closing on Tripoli. A rebel television broadcast from Qatar urges listeners to treat Gaddafi supporters whom they are arresting with dignity. "It is enough humiliation for him that he is under arrest."

Aug 21  An inter-ethnic war over resources in South Sudan has killed at least 500 people. There is competition for land and water resources, and Murle pastoralists are accused of aggression. An estimated 40,000 cattle have been stolen - with people dependent on their livestock for food. Villages have been burned to the ground.

Aug 22  The extent to which people in Tripoli emerged in the streets yesterday to celebrate the end of the Gaddafi regime exposes the nonsense and fantasy expressed by Gaddafi and his spokesmen and the oppression that kept these people subdued and secretive. As of this morning, only one-fifth of Tripoli is reported to be controlled by Gaddafi forces.

Aug 24  People on Fox News normally critical of President Obama are demonstrating the fairness of which they sometimes speak. They, including Bill O'Reilly, have been praising Obama regarding Libya - no US or NATO dead, no fortune spent, and the anti-Gaddafi forces having a sense that it is their war and their victory. Our modesty is reaping benefits. Support for US exceptionalism as a license to attempt control rather than to partner with others, or the call for Obama to do nothing regarding Libya, are points of view not riding high at the moment.

Aug 25  Those in power in the throes of losing a war have been inclined to fantasize. It happened in Germany and Japan as early as 1943-44. Given the increase in capability of the forces against Gaddafi, it was obvious as they were closing in on Tripoli that Gaddafi and company would not be able to reverse the tide of war. Then Gaddafi's son spoke of a clever trap in Tripoli that would break the rebels' back. Today, hiding like a pursued rodent, Gaddafi is calling on the people of Tripoli to capture and kill his adversaries, whom he calls rats, "street by street, house by house."

Aug 26  "... I have been traveling around [Tripoli] every day since Monday (it's Friday), and more and more neighborhoods are secure. What seems to be happening is that you have got like neighborhood committees ... And I have to say that there is still this there's still this huge sense of joy here that, however hard the conditions are, whenever you talk to people and you say, how are you feeling, they say: I'm free. We're free, free at last. Gadhafi is gone. So, however hard it is, they're just still full of excitement, absolutely thrilled to be living this moment." Lindsey Hilsum, International Television News

Aug 30   In running for president of the United States, Rick Perry joins others in making jobs the leading issue. He is asking people to look at what he has achieved as governor of Texas by keeping taxes low. With this he is leading other Republicans running for president and is even or a little ahead of President Obama in polling that compares the two - while unemployment in Texas remains about average for the states, at 8.4 percent.

Aug 31  Mitt Romney claims that because he has been a businessman he would make a better president than a "career politician." Some of us suspect that he is intelligent enough to know that running a corporation puts demands on an executive that are different from the demands on the nation's top executive (who is responsible regarding issues much broader and different in dynamics than a corporation's interests), and he must know that there is no shortage of examples of businessmen who did poorly when trying to be politicians. Some no doubt think that Romney is making a calculated appeal to the many who don't think of such things. Some others might see Romney as just a good-natured, rather happy and ambitious mental mediocrity.

September 2011

Sep 1  Protest leaders in Syria have been insisting on non-violence, rejecting the path that the Libyan uprising has taken. They describe this as the moral high ground, and there is some hope, expressed in an article published by BBC News, that "the largely Sunni trading classes of Damascus and Aleppo" will desert the regime as the new sanctions against Syria "begin to bite."

Sep 1  Today is the deadline for Libya's ambassador to leave Zimbabwe - kicked out for supporting Libya's new anti-Gaddafi regime. Zimbabwe's authoritarian ruler, Robert Mugabe, supports Gaddafi. He condemns NATO's role in Libya and says the conflict in Libya is really about oil.

Sep 2  The European Union buys 95% of Syria's oil exports, which accounts for 25% of Syria's national income, and today the European Union has banned its importation. And it's Friday, going to mosque day - a day of protests in Syria. According to BBC News, protests are going forward today under the slogan "death rather than humiliation" - not a slogan heard among those resisting British rule, overthrowing the tsar or marching with M.L. King in the American South.

Sep 3  A report out of Syria claims that 20 people were killed yesterday during protests across Syria. Eight are said to have been killed when security forces intervened to disperse protests in several suburbs of Damascus.

Sep 5  Illegal immigrant boat arrivals in Australia have been increasing: 7 in 2008, 61 in 2009, 134 in 2010. Prime Minister Julia Gillard of the Labour Party wants to do something about it. Unlike her predessesor, Kevin Rudd, also of the Labour Party, she is against a "big Australia" and warns that "Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population."

Sep 6  Amid public debate, Italy's conservative government is revising its austerity package. Sales taxes are due to rise, a balance-the-budget law is to be put into the constitution, and changes to the retirement age will be made. The Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), Italy's most powerful trade union (5.5 million members) is striking, and it demands stronger action against tax dodgers.

Sep 7  In the Washington Post, columnist Ruth Marcus looks at presidential candidate Mitt Romney's rhetorical "Career politicians got us into this mess and career politicians can't get us out!" She complains that one person's career politician is another person's devoted public servant, that knowledge that comes with experience can be helpful in working on complicated issues. She says she would argue that "President Obama's current difficulties stem less from his being a 'career politician' than from the fact that his political career was so brief before he won the White House."

Sep 9  Hundreds of people are dying every day in Somalia's famine, according to reports. The UN estimates that four million people, more than half of Somalia's population, are living in famine zones - mostly in the south of the country, still controlled> by Islamic extremists. The UN's food agency, the World Food Program, prohibits its staff from moving beyond the airport military base at Somalia's largest city and capital, Mogadishu, and the UN agency is having trouble finding shipping companies willing to send their vessels to Mogadishu through the pirate-infested waters.

Sep 10  None of us like paying taxes, even while we splash money around on junk food and other frivolities and our infrastructure is rotting and we're not paying for our wars. On the 8th, President Obama called on Congress to pass an economic growth plan that consists of no tax increases for the average American. Instead it offers payroll-tax cuts for employees and employers - to stimulate spending, stimulate the economy and an appeal to business-minded Republican lawmakers. Businesses are willing to borrow money for investments they think will produce profits, but many Republicans are claiming that Obama's plan is just more stimulus spending that does not work.

Sep 12  The economist Robert Reich compares the US today with where it was at the end of World War II when the nation had an enormous debt from government spending on war and other programs. At first many feared that another great depression was on the way. (I heard my parents arguing about it.) Rather than rescinding Roosevelt's New Deal there was the government's huge program for veterans in education - the G.I. Bill - and home loans. The US was on its way to reducing the debt  not by tax cuts but by economic growth that continued during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower (who has been called a New Deal Republican). Eisenhower launched a great infrastructure project - the national highway system.

Sep 13  Libya's ambassador to the United States, Ali Suleiman Aujali, writes: "Our road map for building democracy and civil society includes the drafting of a constitution by a representative authority, the approval of the constitution by a popular referendum and, then, for the first time in Libya's history, holding free elections for a representative government. There is a great deal of work ahead. One of our most important tasks will be preventing further unrest. The order of the day must be justice and not revenge.

Sep 14  Journalist Nicholas Shaxson writes: "Over half of world trade passes, at least on paper, through tax havens. Over half of all bank assets, and a third of foreign direct investment by multinational corporations, are routed offshore.... The United States is estimated to be losing $100 billion annually from offshore tax abuses."

Sep 17  The liberal-conservative coalition in power in Denmark was talking about keeping Denmark on its successful path of sustainable economic growth. But a close election two days ago is bringing to power a left-of-center coalition led by Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt, 44, who will be Denmark's first woman prime minister. She is reported as having campaigned on a platform of tax rises and increased public spending. Meanwhile, Denmark's revenues are almost 80% of its GDP compared to 14.2% in 2010 for the United States. Denmark's unemployment rate is around 4.2% compared to 9.1% for the United States. Denmark's national debt is something like half that of the United States, and the Danes worry about the US economy because the US is a buyer of their exports.

Sep 18  Meeting in Istanbul days ago, Syrian opposition groups have agreed on a single body, a Syrian National Council, to represent them. Yesterday more than 200 "opposition figures" met at a private farm in Syria, near Damascus, in an effort to unite anti-government groups.

Sep 18  Chinese villagers in Zhejiang province have stormed a factory they fear is endangering people with environmental pollution. Several company cars were overturned and offices were destroyed.

Sep 18  In Jakarta dozens of women wearing miniskirts protest, one sign reading: "My miniskirt, my right." Another sign reads, "Don't tell us how to dress; tell them not to rape." Jakarta's governor, Fauzi Bowo, responds with an apology for warning females that they can avoid being raped by not wearing short skirts.

Sep 19  Government authorities close down the offending factory in China's Zhejiang province following the riotous protests of villagers.
Vince Cable, pro-business economist
Vince Cable, pro-business economist

Sep 19  Business Secretary Vince Cable, in the cabinet of David Cameron's conservative government, declares that "This is not a time for business as usual or politics as usual." He speaks of the UK rebuilding its broken economy and of his support for "responsible capitalism." He expresses his concern regarding "vast disparities in wealth" and his commitment to a "reduction in the tax burden on low and middle earners [while] the wealthiest continue to pay the most."

Sep 20  President Obama says the wealthy and corporations should pay their "fair share" to cut the deficit. John Boehner, House of Representatives Speaker, responds, saying,"Pitting one group of Americans against another is not leadership." He accuses Obama of class warfare.

Sep 22  Across Saudi Arabia campaigning for municipal elections has begun. No government institution is allowed to provide any moral or financial support to a candidate. Candidates are not allowed to campaign as a member of a group or tribe or to use religious or historical identifications. Candidates are obliged to keep their sources of financial support transparent.

Sep 23  Rupiah Banda of Zambia expresses satisfaction that the election he lost on September 20 was done in a democratic and civilized way. The new president, Michael Sata, is sworn in today and speaks of his commitment to the rule of law and to fighting poverty and corruption.

Sep 24  At the United Nations yesterday Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas received a standing ovation by the General Assembly as he submitted a bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state. He wants pre-1967 borders and describes Israeli settlement building as colonial military occupation and an obstacle to resolution with Israel. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyaho, also spoke. He claimed that the issue of the settlements can be resolved and suggested that Israel continues to occupy the West Bank for the sake of its security. He wants a deal with the Palestinians that offers Israel peace rather than the rain of rockets that followed Israel pulling out of Gaza.

Sep 26  Fear of economic disaster in Europe abounds. Greece owes more money than it can possibly pay. Euro countries, Britain and Republicans in the US are in an austerity mode while some economists, Austan Goolsbee in the US among them, speak of austerity as not providing the growth needed to emerge from the crises. Paul Krugman complains that some in Europe "don't seem at all ready to acknowledge a crucial fact - namely, that without more expansionary fiscal and monetary policies in Europe's stronger economies, all of their rescue attempts will fail." Goolsbee states that it is crucial that focus now be put on economic growth rather than austerity. Economic growth, of course, increases revenues, and revenues are needed to pay down debt.

Sep 28  Continuing the debate between conservative and liberal economists, Robert Reich claims that, "Austerity economics causes higher unemployment, generating lower government revenues, which increases government debt, causing more cuts and higher taxes." Conservatives on the other hand are applauding austerity measures and attacking what they consider profligacy. Some believe that Greece's problem has been more tax-evasion than profligacy and today in Greece people with that view continue their demonstations against the government's austerity strategy.

Sep 30   Bahrain's court system sends twenty medics, doctors and nurses, to prison on sentences of 5 to 15 years. The medics had been released on bail. A government spokesman described the medics as having been involved with hardline protesters seeking regime change. The court has also upheld life sentences for eight Shia activists convicted of participating in protests.

Sep 30  A Danish court has sentenced fifteen members of a motorcycle gang to jail for six murder attempts against rival gang members. Motorcycle gangs in Denmark?

October 2011

Oct 1  Analysts express concern that the revolt in Syria, which began peacefully six months ago, is evolving into an armed conflict. According to state media, government forces have taken control of the town of Rastan after days of fighting against defectors who joined rather than fire upon the protesters. Deserters have been described as forming their own units around Rastan. However pacifistic the analysts and some of the protesters, the deserters are criminals in the eyes of the Assad dictatorship, and they appear not inclined toward begging helplessly for regime change as do some others.

Oct 2  The logic of Assad's continuing violence against protesters plays out - different from events in Morocco, where protesters were not fired upon. According to Anthony Shadid of the New York Times, in Syria's third largest city, Homs, "The semblance of a civil war has erupted." There, armed protesters call themselves revolutionaries and gun battles erupt every few hours.

Oct 4  India's Supreme Court has ruled that the government's fiscal constraints cannot apply to its school meal program. The court has ruled that children have a right to food. Despite this program, according to a report yesterday on the News Hour, malnutrition "remains the root cause of 2,500 child deaths in every day."

Oct 5  Russian and Chinese vetoes in the UN Security Council regarding sanctions against the Assad regime reduce hope of a peaceful road to democracy in Syria. Western diplomats are angry at Russia and China. US Ambassador Susan Rice speaks of Russia and China having "to answer to the Syrian people." Russian and Chinese flags are being burned in Syria. Meanwhile Turkey continues its embargo and is moving toward greater conflict with Syria as civil war in Syria begins. Rebels using arms to defend their dignity and their lives will be fighting from centers too numerous for the Assad regime to control.

Oct 6  "What is important is, how do we get the productive parts of America working harder, with greater exports, with more investment, in the things that will grow the economy? That's the only conversation that matters. Everything else solves itself with growth." So says Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. in other words, paying off the debt and more jobs will come with growth.

Oct 8  Yesterday across Syria were more peaceful demonstrations following Friday prayers, and we have news of at least eight of the demonstrators shot dead. Today's news describes security forces killing several people at the funeral in the town of Qamishii (in the northeast) for the murdered Kurd leader Mishall al-Temmo. Yesterday al Jazzeera reported that an army colonel, Riad al-Asaad, has taken refuge in Turkey and has established the "Syrian Free Army". And yesterday Russia's President Medvedev sent a message to the Bashar al-Assad that he must reform or go - as more Russian flags were burned by protesters.

Oct 9  Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni describes uprisings in the Middle East as an "Islamic awakening" and predicts that the uprisings will follow the path Iran took with its 1979 revolution. Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan instead is supporting secular democracy. He was greeted by cheering crowds on his recent visit to North Africa, with the Iran regime accusing him of "acting in line with the goals of America." Iran is supporting the Assad regime in Syria, as is the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, al-Maliki. The Iran regime describes the behavior of Turkish statesmen toward Syria as "wrong" and predicts that if Turkey doesn't correct itself "it will have both the Turkish people turning away from it domestically and the neighboring countries of Syria, Iraq and Iran [reassessing] their political ties."

Oct 10  Demonstrations on Wall Street and other places leave people in the US with something they already know: that there are people who blame their frustrations on corporate greed. Meanwhile, people are being bombarded with ideas slightly more complex. Fareed Zakaria said it yesterday on his TV show: "The United States is slipping by most measures of global competitiveness. In category after category - actual venture capital funding, research and development - America has dropped well behind countries like Japan, South Korea and Sweden." The columnist Thomas Friedman joins in with his new book, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. It claims that the US no longer leads in innovation. People are also being told that the US is falling behind in education, which is foremost in the economic competitive game. Nations surpassing the United States in various categories have revenues much higher as a percentage of GDP (except for Singapore) than the US. The suggestion is that more taxation is needed - an idea that continues to be denounced by those who believe that taxation inhibits economic development.

Oct 12  Prime Minister Julia Gillard is elated by the passage of a carbon tax law. She has announced: "Today is a significant day for Australians and the Australians of the future who want to see a better environment."

In Syria, Homs is the unofficial capital of the revolution.
In Syria, Homs is the unofficial capital of the revolution.

Oct 12  Burmese are joyous over the freeing of 180 political prisoners. Last March a new civilian-led parliament was sworn in and the military government officially dissolved. General Than Shwe remains Chairman of the State Peace Development Council. The head of state is his hand-picked successor. Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy is not represented in parliament. And, according to the BBC, Burma still has around 2,000 political prisoners.

Oct 12  Iran's Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, demonstrates his grasp of reality with the statement that the Wall Street protests "will grow so that it will bring down the capitalist system and the West." (The Guardian)

Oct 13  Nir Rosen has been in Syria writing for Al Jazeera. He reaches into Syria's recent past and describes the persecution of the Alawite sect to which the ruler Assad belongs. The persecutors have been the Sunni majority. The Alawites have done well integrating with the rest of society. They fear the conflict in Syria turning sectarian and are worshipping Assad as their protector.

Oct 14  What began as continuous shooting of peaceful protesters is turning into civil war, while the Assad regime claims that it is merely going after terrorists and armed gangs. Writing undercover from Syria, Remita Navai describes townfolk hiding her and two young members of a new revolutionary group as Assad's forces attack the town of Madaya (40 km northwest of Damascus) - in today's Huffington Post.

Oct 16  Pundits dispute whether people demonstrating on Wall Street are expressing grievances that are justifiable. Steve Forbes, Republican, thinks the demonstrators are off the mark and blames government for the economic crisis that began in 2007. Paul Krugman counters, reminding people of the banking crisis that developed with credit default swaps and the reckless lending of money. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof lauds the demonstrators for publicizing the issue of inequality. Someone comments on his article saying he is with the demonstrators because education is not as affordable as it was in the 1970s.

Oct 17  Turki al Faisal, former chief of Saudi Arabia's intelligence service, speaks of al Qaeda "losing out everywhere" including in Saudi Arabia where "the al Qaeda cells that had been planted by Bin Laden have practically all been destroyed." He speaks of the Taliban in Afghanistan having "branched out" and that "other sects and ethnicities [are] fighting the presence of military troops there and I think that will grow as long as there are foreigners there." He says the US should have declared victory with the assassination of bin Laden and that now it would be best to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Oct 19  An editorial at arab, out of Saudi Arabia, expresses disgust with Syria's Bashar Assad: "Hours after the Arab League called on the Syrian regime and opposition to hold 'dialogue within 15 days' the killing machine went into action doing what it does best: Kill, kill and kill. Dozens of people were killed in Homs and elsewhere on Monday." Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has broken relations with the Assad regime, and out of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba has come support for the Assad regime defending itself against "imperialism."

Oct 20  Qaddafi is shot dead in his hometown of Sirte where he was found hiding in a drainage pipe. His dream of a democracy based on brotherhood rather than representational government (expressed in his Green Book) is also dead. Qaddari financed the movie Lion of the Desert . That lion, Omar Mukhtar, was a hero among Libyans and to Qaddafi. Nasser of Egypt was another of his heroes. Qaddafi had a hero's bravado, but it wasn't enough.

Oct 21  In Spain, the ETA Basque separatists renounce armed struggle as a tool for achieving independence, ending their 40 years of violence.

Oct 21  The killing continues in Syria today (Friday) - more than twenty in the city of Homs. Here on You Tube  are defiant people in that city. Videos exist via Twitter of crowds in other cities chanting for Assad's death.

Oct 24  A scientific study in the US on the question of global warming confirms previous studies. The most recent study was funded in part by the Charles G. Koch foundation, reputed to be conservative. The study leader, the physicist Richard Muller, had a reputation for healthy skepticism.

Oct 25  Amnesty International reports that in Syria authorities appear to have "given security forces a free rein in hospitals." The report describes blood banks at the hospitals as under the control of the defence ministry and blood being denied patients with gun shot wounds. The report declares, "In many cases hospital staff appear to have taken part in torture and ill treatment of the very people they are supposed to care for."

Oct 26  Tunisia's Islamist party, the Ennahda, is winning a plurality of seats in a new parliament and is working on the formation of a coalition government. Members have indentified their party as the Party of God - not a shocking claim to those in the US who think they have seen a similar identification among Republicans. Declarations from Ennahda leaders have led to expectations that power will enhance the party's respect for order, tolerance and rules of democracy, including cooperating with secular parties.

Oct 27  Warnings have been voiced about Tunisia's Ennahda party. Oren Kessler writing for the Jerusalem Post has reminded people that the party supported the
1979 embassy takeover in Iran, that evidence suggests it was responsible for bombing four tourist hotels in the 1980s and that in 1991 its leader, Rashid Ghannouchi, called for attacks on US interests in the Middle East in response to America's invasion of Iraq in the Gulf War. Kessler adds that Ennahda's founding ideology was largely shaped by Sayyid Qutb  Meanwhile, Tunisia's Ennahda party prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, claims that fears of Ennahda's power are unwarranted. He says that in addition to his committment to pluralistic democracy there will be no ban on bikinis or alcohol - bans that would threaten Tunisia's important tourist industry.

Oct 28  Following a European Union summit meeting in Brussels, banks accept a 50% loss on their loans (in the form of bonds) to Greece - up from a previous agreement of 21% in July. The move is being described as voluntary, but perhaps the banks felt they could do no better. Equity markets in Europe and the US soared yesterday in response, while there is no certainty that this latest concession to Greece's debt will enable Greece to recover and grow.

Oct 28  Post-election violence erupts in one town in Tunisia, and in his first news conference since the election the Ennahda party leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, calls on all Tunisians to reject violence. He adds that there would be a role for women in the new government and no requirements for women to wear a headscarf.

Oct 29  The 22-member League of Arab States denounces the killing of civilians and urges Syria (a member) to take "necessary measures" to protect civilians. Yesterday, according to reports, at least 37 protesters were killed, mostly in the cities of Homs and Hama.

Oct 30  A defiant Assad sends tanks and aircraft against Homs. In an interview with Britain's Sunday Telegraph he warns of an "earthquake" and Syria becoming another Afghanistan if the West intervenes. YouTube

Oct 31  The U.S air base a few miles northwest of Bishkek  in Kyrgyzstan should go when its lease runs out in 2014, so says the country's prime minister, Almazbek Atambayev. BBC

Oct 31  World population reaches 7 billion.

November 2011

Nov 1  Syria is accused of kidnapping dissidents from Lebanon, to which its citizens have fled to avoid persecution by the Assad regime.

Nov 1  In Greece, political support for the government's austerity measures is cracking, and this sends stock markets into another dive. A poll shows most Greeks do not support the government's austerity measures. Common Greeks are not blaming themselves for their country's debt crisis; they are blaming the wealthy who dodged paying taxes - as did many who were not so wealthy.

Nov 1  The scientific work of genetically modifying male mosquitoes is raising the hope of reducing mosquito populations and disease transmissions.

Nov 2  Following UNESCO'S acceptance of the Palestinian Authority as a member, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has decided to expedite the construction of 2,000 housing units planned for East Jerusalem,
for Gush Etzion (20 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem), and for Ma'aleh Adumim (a bedroom community ten minute's drive eastward from Jerusalem Britain, France and Germany denounce Netanyahu's move.

Nov 3  At an Arab League meeting in Cairo the Assad regime has agreed to end attacks against civilians, to take its troops and tanks off the streets, to allow journalists and rights groups to monitor events and to dialogue with protesters. The foreign minister of Qatar says he is "happy" concerning the agreement and with his "brothers in Syria ." A few tweeters have called on members of the Arab League to "get real." And today, tanks with machine guns are reported as active in the city of Homs, killing seven people.

Nov 4  The Assad regime responds to its agreement with Syria's fellow Arab League members by again offering people amnesty if they surrender. Aljazeera reports more demonstrations today and more government violence.

Nov 4  A new law in Cuba offers more free-market reform: the buying and selling of homes. Since 1959 people have been exchanging property by complicated barter arrangements or black-markets deals involving illegal payments and bribes.

Nov 5  Islamists kill at least 63 people and set churches afire in Damaturu, northeastern Nigeria . The group accused is Boko Haram, which means Western Education Forbidden. Followers are said to be influenced by the Koranic phrase, "Anyone not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors." These are not our modern, educated Muslims. Followers have been described as rejecting modern science, the wearing of shirts and pants and voting in elections.

Nov 6  In Legatum Institute's annual 2011 ranking, the US is 1st in health, 5th in entrepreneurship and opportunity, 10th in prosperty, 13th in education, and 26th in safety and security.

Nov 6  Bloomberg News reports. that an Italian surveillance company, Area SpA, is busy supplying Assad's regime with the power to intercept, scan and catalog virtually every e-mail that flows through the country. The system is now in a test phase.

Nov 10  In Italy, rising bond yields burden paying off government debt. Borrowing money is more expensive. Italy's economic growth is stalled, reducing its ability to pay off its debt.The European Union announces that economic growth for the entire Eurozone has stalled. Recession looms.

Nov 11   In an article at,  today the anti-regime Free Syrian Army is described as protecting "some villages in Dera, Jebal Al-Zawya and Idlib and some districts in Hama and Homs." And there is hope that Arab League influence on Russia and China will prevent these two from casting another veto in the UN Security Council. (From a tweet by SlaughterAM.)

Nov 12  The Arab League votes to suspend Syria from its meetings and asks member states to withdraw their ambassadors from Syria. In Syria, state televsion describe the league as "serving a Western and American agenda."

Nov 14  Portland's mayor, Sam Adams, a Democrat with progressive views and a history of toughness on police abuses, orders the closing of the Occupy Portland protest camp. The deadline for the protesters to leave the city-park area was yesterday. Adams says he is enforcing the law. Police have been in riot gear because of potential retaliation. Protesters haven't understood this and have complained that there were no riots and that "We are a peaceful protest." Yesterday some protesters scuffled with police in response to being forced to move, rather than sitting down and letting themselves be arrested.

Nov 14  Google ranks change of address scammer (who is legal) ahead of the US Postal Service.
Jean Quan, progressive Democrat 
Jean Quan, progressive Democrat and
the embattle mayor of Oakland, California

Nov 15  The mayors of New York and Oakland clear their cities of occupation camps. Both mayors are progressive thinkers. Quan is a smart Democrat. Their rationale is that their cities belong to all the people, that they are in a democracy where freedom to express opinions still exists. The protesters can express their views in a variety of ways that will impact electoral politics where their views will count more - without disrupting the rights of others in their use of public parks and roadways.

Nov 18  Protest leaders in Berkeley and Oakland in the 1960s opposed the urgings of wilder participants in demonstrations to close down the Bay Bridge or otherwise block people trying to get some place, like work. We were trying to win people to our point of view, not to annoy people. Yesterday in New York City, protesters wanted to shut down subway hubs and block roads. One emotionally wrought protester told a newsman: "Bloomberg has really put gasoline on the flames. And every inch that he pushes us back, we're going to go forward a foot. And nothing's going to stop us, no matter how many times you try to shut us down. We're going to figure out a way to be heard." Why he can't be heard and seen demonstrating in the legal fashion that Mayor Bloomberg favors the demonstrator did not say, and what he accomplishes by pushing back that he could not accomplish remaining in accord with Bloomberg will soon be apparent.

Nov 21  More than 109 Egyptian ambassadors and other diplomats sign a statement that calls for an immediate halt to the violence and aggression by security forces against protesters and for those responsible to be brought to justice, and the statement says that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces should hand power to a civilian government completely by the middle of 2012. At least 20 people are reported to have died with hundreds more injured since the violence began on the 19th. The protesters are offended by plans by the military to remain an authority above a civilian government.

Nov 22  Greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere hit record levels in 2010, and nearly 40 percent more carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere now than at any time since the industrial era began in 1750, according to a United Nations report.

Nov 23  Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his forcast that the Arab Spring would turn into an "Islamic, anti-Western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli and anti-democratic wave" has become a reality. He accused the Arab Spring revolutions of "moving not forward, but backward." He criticized Western leaders, and especially President Obama, for favoring Egypt's dictator, Mubarak, resigning from power. According to Barak Ravid in Haaretz (Israel's foremost news agency), Netanyahu is using the upheaval in the Arab world "to justify his government's inaction vis-a-vis the peace process with the Palestinians."

Nov 24  King Hamad promises reforms after receiving a report he ordered regarding events in Bahrain in February and March. The 500-page report was led by an Egyptian-American law professor, Mahmoud Sharif Bassiouni, a veteran UN human rights investigator. King Hamad says he never again wants to discover that "any of our law enforcement personnel have mistreated anyone." He promises to sack those officials who have abused their power and to reform Bahrain's laws to protect freedom of speech and other basic rights.

Nov 25  Following days of mass demonstrations across Egypt and around 38 protester deaths, Egypt's ruling military council has apologized to the country. The aroused passions of the crowds in the street want more. They want the generals to step aside. The Obama administration has been supporting the generals but now calls for a "Full transfer of power to a civilian government ... in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the
legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible."

Nov 26  In Morocco's elections the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) wins the most seats in parliament - 80 among 395. The party's leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, will become head of Morocco's government, the prime minister - appointed by King Mohamed IV. The PJD has modeled itself on Turkey's ruling party, also named Justice and Development Party. The elections are described in Morocco,  as a victory for democracy.

Nov 29  Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, has flattered demonstrators by congratulating them on their accomplishments. But the mayor wants to uphold the law and the right of people to free passage on public thoroughfares. Los Angeles police have been avoiding aggressive confrontations while watching tents diminish in number from day to day. This soft approach annoys those who are impatient for tough police confrontation with illegality. They complain that the police have lost credibility.

Nov 29  Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, sets Russia against the logic of events that have been developing in Syria. He calls for further attempts at political dialogue with the Assad regime. The failure of the Arab League to move Assad through dialogue has been followed by the league's economic sanctions and Syria's further international isolation - except for more support for the Free Syrian Army. France's foreign minister, Alain Juppe, says publicly that the days of the Syrian government are "numbered."

Nov 30  More than 200 are arrested in a sweep that clears the Occupy - according to the Los Angeles Times without the fierce confrontations that marred the sweeps in Oakland and New York. There was some righteous indignation among the demonstrators. They apparently saw no distinction between the laws they were violating and the oppressive laws of authoritarian regimes or the laws that Martin Luther King intentionally violated. Mrvonh, from Boone NC, makes no distinction and tweets that the US is acting as a "police state." A few demonstrators have mistakenly described themselves as representing democracy and a majority - as did the T-Party movement .

December 2011

 Dec 1   Republicans back away from the common ideological point among them that tax cuts pay for themselves (by advancing the economy). Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, responds to President Obama's move to extend payroll tax cuts, saying he cannot support such cuts unless they are paid for - with cuts in spending. (Rachael Maddow Show, MSNBC, Nov 30)

Dec 2  China is cracking down on illegal jailers. Local governments have been paying these "security firms" to detain persons traveling to Beijing to voice grievances. (BBC)

Dec 2  Bloomberg News reports that internet and telephone monitoring and surveliiance equipment for Syria is now banned by the European Union. The Italian company, Area SpA, abandons its project for the Assad regime. (See Nov 6)

Dec 3  Arguments counter to contemporary Republican ideology have been getting a big hearing as we approach another election year. Talking about his new book, "Back to Work," Bill Clinton tells PBS journalist Judy Woodruff: "And so what I wanted to do was say, look at the last 30 years. Look what our competitors are doing. There is no example on the planet of a successful economy with broadly shared prosperity and a shrinking, weak government. You can have a small, lean government. But they're all strong. They're all working in partnership. What works are these partnerships, these networks." Clinton's poll numbers have been running 66% favorable and 33% opposed.

Dec 4  In the US, Herman Cain "suspends" his run for the Republican presidential nomination. He claims that allegations of sexual harassment and a 13-year-long extra-marital affair are false. Someone tweets: "Just had a conversation with my FOX News watching parents, who REALLY believe Cain is being smeared by Liberals. How can we even be related?"

Dec 5  Quiet community work pays off for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt's first round of parliamentary elections. An article in the Los Angeles Times describes Egypt's young activists as hampered in electoral politics by egos, political naivete and as overwhelmed at the polls by better organized Islamists.

Dec 6  The National Institute for Space Research describes 6,238 square km (2,400 square miles) of rainforest in Brazil as having disappeared between August 2010 and July 2011 - a drop of 11% from the previous year - mainly the result of cattle farming, crop production and logging.

Dec 7  Dense smog in China's capital has led to cancellation of hundreds of flights at its airport. Thousands of passengers have been stranded. The US embassy describes particulate levels in the city, Beijing, as "hazardous." The UN considers Beijing as one of the most polluted in the world.

Dec 8  In an interview with Barbara Walters, President Assad of Syria said that the security forces are not his, that he doesn't command them and that there was no command to kill or be brutal. "I don't own them," he said. "I am president. I don't own the country so they are not my forces." He said that he did his "best to protect the government in the world kills it people unless it's led by a crazy person." He repeated his claim that "foreign plotters" were behind the nationwide unrest. He asserted that "the majority" is not against him and that "The only thing that you could be afraid of as president is to lose the support of your people." Like ancient Rome's Nero and some like him, Assad gained power by a family connection.

Dec 9  Transparency International has released its 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index rankings (scroll down). The best scoring country is New Zealand. Tied for 2nd are Denmark and Finland. Australia is 8th, Switzerland 9th and Canada 10th. The US is 24th. Egypt is 112th. There, nepotism, bribery and patronage have been described as deeply engrained in daily life.

Dec 10  In Syria, 35 or so deaths are reported for another Friday of protests yesterday, eleven of the deaths in and around the city of Homs. Syria has a population greater than 2.5 million and a birth rate of 23.9 per 1,000, per year. Let's say half the population is anti-Assad. That's about 880 new persons born into the anti-Assad segment of society every day, and there might be about as many (let's say 70 percent) coming of age every day. That would be a little more than 600 per day. These are people who keep in mind what Assad's security forces have done to people with whom they identify. If all this holds, it means that 30, 40 or even 100 anti-Assad people killed per day isn't going to save the Assad regime.

Dec 12  European leaders agreed in Brussels last week to an increase in economic integration among countries that use the euro and to impose sanctions on member states that exceed a budget deficit limit. London is Europe's biggest financial center and more cosmopolitan than New York. To protect its independence, Britain is not joining the European Union agreement. Today France's Sarkozy complains that there are now clearly "two Europes."
Dec 13  The government of El Salvador apologizes for an army massacre of more than 1,000 persons - nearly half of them children - in 1981 during the war against the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMNL). The FMNL Is now part of a government of former guerrilla groups that won in the election in 2009. (Reported by BBC News)

Dec 13  In a fantastic exercise of false equivalence, Russia's foreign minister claims that the West should condemn the opposition in Syria as well as Syria's security forces. According to his logic a people have no right to defend themselves and should instead protest by bearing their necks to their oppressors. Some utopians, who do not understand where and how non-violent tactics work, agree with him.

Dec 14  Regarding Russia's biggest protests since the fall of the Soviet Union, aimed at Vladimir Putin, Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution says something that applies also to Britain's Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. These two were "... enormously popular when they came in, and towards that end of their tenure, after they had gone through two terms ... they started to lose their popularity. People got a little tired of seeing them. So, in other words, Mr. Putin's brand has gone stale, and he hasn't been able to reinvigorate it." (From a Dec 13 News Hour interview.)

Dec 15  Syrian defectors tell of orders to kill and torture protesters, told by Tim Lister, CNN

Dec 15  Some Republicans complain about the graduated income tax and describe it as theft. Matt Miller in today's Washington Post writes of a lot of wealth distribution going on. This includes billions in wealth from high-income states like New York and California, which vote Democratic, shipped via federal benefits and subsidies to states that vote Republican. Amid other examples, he doesn't mention wealth distribution in the form of employee share of profits.

Dec 16  In last night's debate among Republican presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich lectured again on morality. He again claimed that secularists had no morality, no sense of right and wrong (in other words that all value is religiously derived), and he described secularism (the secularism that took Europe out of the Middle Ages?) as harmful to the nation. Last month he declared that secularism is responsible for the nation's problems. Gingrich is the leading choice among Republicans in the race for the presidency, and opposition to secularism is being described as dominant among the Republican drive for power.

Dec 16  Russia joins the 153-member World Trade Organization (WTO) after eighteen years of negotiations. (The WTO decides when trade liberalization agreements have been breached and when retaliatory trade sanctions can be imposed.)

Dec 18  A summing up is being voiced as the last of US troops leave Iraq - almost nine years since the war began. Many agree that US political leadership was incompetent, that mistakes were made in conducting the war. In the US the $1 trillion or more spent and more importantly the 4,486 US military lives lost and 32,226 seriously wounded are being weighed against changes in Iraq since 2003. The Republican Party's candidate for president in 2008, Senator McCain, remains adamant about his perception of victory in Iraq, and he fervently describes President Obama's withdrawal of troops from Iraq as putting at risk "everything that we gained." Other Republicans speak of an intractable gain: Saddam Hussein is gone. Meanwhile, many if not most Iraqis are glad they are no longer being bossed around by young foreigners with guns. And many are bitter. Civilian Iraqi deaths are counted at between 103,536 and 113,125. The war has left an estimated 1.75 million Iraqis displaced. Iraqi observers describe the war as having exacerbated sectarian animosities. Sectarian violence continues, and observers everywhere describe Iraq as still volatile, while some in the US worry about the regime in power in Iraq having declared itself a friend of the regime in Iran.

Dec 19  Kim Jong-il, Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, dies. He was called "father" by the people, and contagious weeping is displayed in a nation where people are expected to maintain childish devotion. He was the son the nation's founder, Kim il-Sung, and is succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un, age 28(?). Some of us expect the people's dynasty to end before long.

Dec 20  In Egypt yesterday dozens of newly elected members of parliament and electoral candidates, including Mohamed Beltagy of the Muslim Brotherhood, gathered on the steps of Egypt's high court to demand that the military turn over power to the lower house of parliament by January 25. Today is the fifth day of military crackdown against protesters in Cairo. General Emara calls the protesters "thugs" paid to throw Molotov cocktails at government buildings. The protesters accuse the generals of delaying the transfer of power to civilian rule. Thirteen people have died and several hundred have been wounded since the crackdown began.

Dec 21  Several thousand women marched in downtown Cairo yesterday expressing their anger over soldiers attacking demonstrators with sticks, beating women to the ground, continuing to beat and beat and to stomp the same persons. According to the New York Times, historians called the women's rally "the most significant since a 1919 march against British colonialism." On CNN, scholar Fouad Ajami described the attackers as members of the Security Forces, from poor families, with low pay, jealous of the middle and upper class demonstrators and poorly trained. Mohamed El Baradei tweets that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has "urged Egypt's Senior Military leaders to act on the violence or risk future prosecution."

Dec 22  North Korea's government media reports remarkable events marking the death of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il: ice on a famous lake that cracked 'so loud, it seemed to shake the Heavens and the Earth' and a mysterious glow on a revered mountain top. The incidents are described by the North Koreans as having occurred on their sacred mountain, Paekdu, which borders North Korea and China, where Kim Jong-il is reported to have been born, also amid unusual phenomena: a bright star that changed the season from winter to spring and an awe-inspiring double rainbow.

Dec 22  In Baghdad the worst bombing attacks in months kills at least 63 and injures around 185 - while sectarian tensions continue to divide Iraq and its government.

Dec 23  In Prague thousands gather to pay their last respects to Vacslav Havel, the dissident playwright, jailed by the Marxist-Leninist regime, who became president after the fall of that regime in 1989. At noon today the Czech nation observed a minute's silence. Havel had at least one weakness: he smoked. He died of a respiratory illness at 75. Havel was not a hater. As a playwrite he took note of humanity's weaknesses as well as strengths. He advocated tactics that were personal: individual avoidance of the Leninist regime's cultural strictures. Rock and jazz are said to have played a significant role in communicating togetherness in regime opposition. (They were not facing the kind of murderous regime that exists today in Syria.) Havel was a modest man who didn't enjoy or advocate political theater in the form of public demonstrations. He became most heroic among the Czechs without exhibitionism. Anne Applebaum writes of Havel having been different from so many of his generation. "Obsessed for so long with the tactics of destruction, few of them understood the importance of reconstruction. In fact, victory was not just toppling the old regime, victory was creating the institutions and symbols that would replace it." Applebaum writes that Havel's essay," The Power of the Powerless," will live forever.

Dec 24  Across the US, disorders erupt in stores as shoppers struggle to lay their hands on a new pair of "Air Jordan" Nike shoes, which sell for around $180. Meanwhile little enthusiasm exists for spending just a little money to help governments, local or federal, balance their budgets.

Dec 26  Al Jazeera reports that the Dead Sea has been falling by more than a meter every year. Blame is being put on Israeli and Jordanian companies taking more and more water and on climate change. The sea is at least a third less than what it was fifty years ago, and rival claims for the newly exposed land is being made by Israel, Palestinians and Jordan.

Dec 27  Fifty Arab League observers, split into teams of ten, do their first day of work in Syria. One team visits the city of Homs, the day after dozens are reported as having been killed there. Government forces including tanks are pulled back from the city. Large anti-government protests take place in the neighborhoods of Bab Sbaa and Khaldiyeh. A funeral march occurs in the Ghouta area. Rallies supporting President Bashar al-Assad and the army are reported in two other neighborhoods. (The diameter of Homs is roughly 10 miles or 16 kilometers.)

Dec 28  An activist in Homs tells the Reuters News that some families of people who have killed refuse to meet with Arab League monitors because they are being escorted by an army officer.

Dec 28  An Egyptian court has ordered the military to end forced virginity inspections in its prisons. The inspections have been claimed as necessary to counter possible charges of rape.

Dec 28  Iran's vice president threatens to block transport of oil through the Port of Hormuz - a move certain to create war - in response to the West's "plots" to impose sanctions regarding his country's nuclear program.

Dec 29  In China the year ends with a quick trial (on the 26th) and a ten-year prison sentence for Chen Xi for criticizing the Communist Party. The charge: subverting state power.

Dec 29  A summary of record breaking weather in the US for the year: in January, "paralyzing blizzards" dumping heavy snow in 22 states. In the spring, three of the largest twister outbreaks in American history in just six weeks; triple the normal amount of rainfall to the Ohio River Valley. In August, Hurricane Irene "drenched the Eastern Seaboard" and triggered record flooding in New Jersey, New York State and Vermont; Texas had its worst one-year drought; and nationwide more than 6,000 heat records were broken this year - to say nothing about the catastrophic weather that occurred elsewhere in the world. Said weather continues to be associated by many with global warming. (NewsHour, Dec 28)

Dec 30  It has been a bad year for African elephants. Despite an international ban on the ivory trade, the trade has been booming, much of the ivory ending up in China or Thailand. In 2011, 23 tons of elephant tusks have been seized, representing at least 2,500 dead animals, compared to 10 tons seized in 2010.

Dec 30  In Syria, fearful Alawi Syrians continue to support the Alawi dictator, Assad, while his regime continues to terrorize communities with tanks, bullets, knocks on doors, imprisonments, torture and death. Eleven months of protests end with more than 5,000 dead, Arab League observers and the world looking on and anguished Syrians asking why the international community continues to allow this to happen.

Dec 31  Yesterday in Syria, the presence of Arab League observers emboldened opponents of the Assad regime to call for people leaving Friday prayers to join anti-government rallies. The observers were supposed to verify the implementation of a peace initiative and an end to violence. Across Syria were big demonstrations. In the city of Douma, 150,000 sat-in in front of the Arab League observers. In Douma were reports of security forces firing on people from roof tops. There were reports of tear gas and nail bombs tossed at demonstrators elsewhere. The number killed yesterday is estimated at 35. Men were filmed being taken away by soldiers to an unknown fate, with one video showing the victim being shot at once inside a police van. State media showed government rallies and made its usual accusations of a foreign orchestrated plot. The government appears locked-in to a hostility that prevents it from making any gesture toward reconciliation. The dictator Assad, instead of appearing burdened by events, grinned with goofy happiness as he waved clumsily to cheering supporters.

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